Entertainment behind the scenes
With Norman Gentle, will comedy upend singing on “Idol”?
It was a pretty humdrum night on “American Idol” until Norman Gentle took the stage.
Until this season, every contestant to make it this far on the ultimate talent show has been unfailingly serious about their quest for fame (though, admittedly, the seriousness of Sanjaya Malakar’s 2007 turn is open to debate). They may tug at viewers’ heartstrings by saying they only want fame for the sake of family members who depend on them, and they may smile and joke, but none of them make a joke of the often humiliating process of laying it all out there on the “Idol” stage.
That has now changed with Nick Mitchell, who goes by the stage name Norman Gentle. Mitchell strutted onto the stage on Wednesday night wearing a 1980s headband, silver shirt, white tuxedo jacket with tails, and khaki shorts, writhing his way across the stage and all but prostrating himself in front of the “Idol” logo at the base of the judges’ table in an exaggerated parody of what contestants do every week on the show. Whereas other contestants sing their hearts out and then wait until afterward to ask America to vote for them, Mitchell just included a plea for votes right into his lyrics. He sang “And I Am Telling You” from the musical “Dreamgirls.” With lyrics like, ”I’m stayin’/ and you, and you/ you’re going to love me,” Mitchell was able to use the song to beg for his spot on the show.
Former ”Idol” contestant Jennifer Hudson sang the song in the movie version of “Dreamgirls” to wild critical acclaim, so the song is somewhat tied to the show. Even when Hudson sang it in the movie it had a story, because she was open about how her elimination from “Idol,” which came before her “Dreamgirls” role, was a crushing blow.
It remains to be seen if “Idol” voters will give him a chance to stay on. ”I hope I’m speaking on behalf of America when I pray you don’t go through to the next round,” said judge Simon Cowell. But the other three judges on the panel liked Mitchell’s performance, and everyone agreed it was different.
Other strong performers who received praise from the judges included 16-year-old redhead Allison Iraheta, who sang Heart’s “Alone,” and 26-year-old Adam Lambert, who has a background in musical theater and sang the Rolling Stones song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The judges also had nice things to say about Arkansas native Kris Allen’s rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and Megan Joy Corkrey‘s version of Corinne Baily Rae’s “Put Your Records On.”
If Mitchell does make it through to next round, how could he change his act and do something different from begging for votes? Is he a one trick pony, or does he bring something fresh to the show? And did any of the 12 contestants on Wednesday night look like they could go all the way?