Ventriloquist trumps poised Bel Air teen

August 22, 2007|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun television critic

America's Got Talent, TV's highest-rated summer show, ended its second season last night with singer/ventriloquist Terry Fator taking home the $1 million prize.

A Texas-based entertainer who said his dream was to headline in Las Vegas, Fator won over three other finalists: Bel Air country singer Julienne Irwin, beatboxer Antoinette "Butterscotch" Clinton and singer/guitarist Cas Haley.

While 14-year-old Julienne was the first to be eliminated, the telecast was nevertheless a triumph for her.

The live, two-hour program featured all the finalists performing duets with established artists in their field. Fator appeared with the Muppets, Haley with UB40 ("Red Red Wine"). Clinton sang with R&B star Sean Kingston ("Beautiful Girls"), and Julienne took the stage with country singer Taylor Swift ("Teardrops on My Guitar").

If a recording contract weren't already in the works for the rising freshman from Harford Christian School, it was a done deal after her duet on "Teardrops" with the 17-year-old Swift. Julienne shot out the lights -- matching Swift note for note and singing sweet sure harmony on the chorus.

A video greeting from country superstar Martina McBride should have erased any doubts about her talent: "Julienne, I am really impressed with your singing. ... You have a great, great voice."

Julienne maintained her poise to the end.

"I'm not upset at all about this," she told host Jerry Springer after her elimination, which was based on viewer voting that ended last week. "It's just been so much fun."

While the first hour of the show had tremendous energy and emotion, the second hour suffered from segments that would best be described as filler: a male-female quick-change act, and judge David Hasselhoff singing "This Is the Moment."

If it was the moment, it was one of the worst.

The road to Fator's million-dollar payday began six months ago in New York City. There, more than 100,000 contestants tried out for the NBC reality show, which drew an average of 10.8 million viewers a week during its run.

The trio of judges -- Hasselhoff, Sharon Osbourne and Piers Morgan -- cut the field to 20 acts that were brought to Las Vegas for the semifinals last month. The final 10 performers competed in Los Angeles, where Fator was crowned.

In addition to the cash prize, Fator received word at the end of the telecast that he would be headlining next month at Bally's Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

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