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America's Got Talent Ventriloquist Celia Munoz Opens Up About Honoring Olivia Newton-John With Her Grease Tribute Performance

Celia Munoz singing "Hopelessly Devoted To You" from Grease on America's Got Talent
(Image credit: NBC)

America’s Got Talent is using the qualifiers to cut the 55 acts who made it past the auditions down to the top ten who will perform in the finale, and the third week had a wide variety of acts, including the return of golden buzzer winner Sara James and girl group XOMG POP! Celia Munoz was back as the extremely original ventriloquist who blows crowds away without even needing a dummy, in contrast to former AGT winners Terry Fator and Darci Lynne. Her latest performance also managed to honor the late Olivia Newton-John with a Grease tribute, and Munoz opened up about it. 

The Spanish opera singer-turned-ventriloquist acted out a scene of herself sitting in a drive-in to watch Grease, while snacking on traditional movie theater treats… and singing Olivia Newton-John’s iconic “Hopelessly Devoted To You.” She not only pulled off all the voices needed without moving her lips, but acted out the role of a fan actually watching the movie and deeply invested in Danny and Sandy’s love story. The judges were full of praise for her originality, and Simon Cowell even said that she was the best act of the night when there weren’t many acts left. 

Celia Munoz spoke with CinemaBlend and other outlets after coming to the qualifiers as a ventriloquist with no puppet. When I asked about her decision to embrace Grease with the classic Olivia Newton-John song, she shared:

I chose the song before Olivia Newton-John passed away. Like, I'm watching Grease because I'm a super fan of the movie, and I love Olivia Newton-John, and then she passed away after. Then I said, ‘Now I really have to do well in this act because now it has become a tribute to this wonderful artist that we all love, and she brought so much joy.’ So for that day, I went crazy and rehearsed.

Olivia Newton-John passed away on August 8 at the age of 73 after a long battle with cancer, and her famous friends (including Grease leading man John Travolta) wasted no time in sharing tributes to the singer/actress. According to Celia Munoz, she was already planning on embracing Grease for her qualifiers performance prior to Newton-John’s death. And I would say that the "crazy" rehearsing paid off!

The ventriloquist made her AGT debut back in May, so she’d had plenty of time to start planning her next act, and it makes sense that a performance with as many variables as hers would need a fair amount of prep time. How many people could talk while drinking a milkshake, eating ice cream, and chomping on popcorn, let alone sing a great rendition of “Hopelessly Devoted To You” live on national television? 

Celia Munoz went on to explain her creative process to press on the virtual red carpet, saying: 

The idea was like a cinema because when you watch a movie, there [are] voices going on and songs, and I want to sing because I'm a singer. Then of course when I thought of a movie, I thought it has to be Grease. It has to be Grease because people love Grease. I love Grease and I love Olivia Newton-John. So I chose the song before she passed away, and then once she passed away then of course it has become even deeper feeling for the act because it's now a tribute.

Luckily, the performance wasn’t somber or serious even when it became deeper and she realized that her rehearsal was for a tribute as well as the chance to advance to the AGT finals. It wasn’t a sad way to remember Olivia Newton-John, but a lot of fun, and her odds of advancing to the finals seemed pretty great as soon as the judges gave their commentary and the audience (finally) stopped applauding. In case you missed it, take a look:

Like the other ten performers in the third week of qualifiers, her America’s Got Talent fate was in the hands of the voters from home, and fans didn’t have a whole lot of time to cast their votes. The episode ended at 10 p.m. ET on Tuesday night on NBC, and voting closed at 7 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning with the results to be announced in primetime on Wednesday night. Howie Mandel previously made the point that sometimes viewers from home miss out by not watching as part of the live audience; will that affect Munoz’s chances?

Be sure to tune in to America’s Got Talent on Wednesday, August 24 at 8 p.m. ET to see which of the latest eleven will move on, and whether Celia Munoz is one of them. She and magician Nicolas Ribs were some of the judge favorites of the night, but singer Sara James – who I may have made a huge mistake in where I ranked her among the golden buzzer winners – blew the roof off with her performance of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” to close out the night. 

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.