Spoilers ahead for the final round of America's Got Talent Season 16 performances.
Season 16 of America's Got Talent is nearly at an end, and one of the ten remaining acts will get the news that they've been hoping for ever since their auditions. The prize of $1 million plus a major role in a Las Vegas stage show is within reach, and it's hard to narrow down at this point who will even make the top five, let alone become the first champion since Brandon Leake last year. Fortunately, judges Howie Mandel and Simon Cowell as well as host Terry Crews have shared their favorites who would crush on a Las Vegas stage.
The ten finalists include every golden buzzer winner with the exception of Nightbirde, who had to withdraw, but there are also some competitors who are among the favorites to win it all without a golden buzzer to their name. Those still in the running are teen aerialist Aidan Bryant, singer Brooke Simpson, magician Dustin Tavella, stand-up comic Gina Brillon, singer Jimmie Herrod, stand-up comic Josh Blue, quick change artist Léa Kyle, singing group Northwell Health Nurse Choir, martial arts group World Taekwondo Demonstration Team, and young singer Victory Brinker.
Howie Mandel, Simon Cowell, and Terry Crews spoke with CinemaBlend following the final round of Season 16 performances before the voting, and they shared their perspectives on who of the remaining ten has what it takes for Vegas.
Howie Mandel didn't have a bad thing to say about anybody's final performances all night, even though he does continue to advocate for Northwell Health Nurse Choir in particular as his golden buzzer pick of the season. He has also been a consistent fan of World Taekwondo Demonstration Team, even comparing their act to a Marvel movie. But who among the final ten would fit well with Las Vegas? Howie Mandel had a pretty complimentary response to my question:
Oh, every one! I don't think anybody tonight wouldn't be good in Vegas. As I said, you know, I could watch two hours of Taekwondo. That is amazing. And even more amazing live. I watch it back every week on TV, and I love the way we shoot it. And I love that we get to see moments of it in slow motion. But nothing compares to when you're sitting where me and my fellow judges and Terry are sitting, and you see how high in the air they actually are. You see how hard they are hitting that wood and those bricks and how accurate and amazing and energetic and electric it is, that I think is just lost somewhat a little bit on television. So they are a perfect live act. But they all are. You know, I think that the magician was just, he's a beautifully emotional storyteller who captures an audience and we do very good with magic in Vegas. I think it'd be harder for me to figure out who wouldn't be good in Vegas that was there tonight.
World Taekwondo Demonstration Team got another specific shout-out even as Howie Mandel suggested that every one of the remaining ten acts would do well on a Vegas stage. He also mentioned Dustin Tavella, who once again weaved an emotional story about his family in with a magic trick that was more than a little uplifting. None of the judges thought they detected nerves in Tavella this time around, and he obviously made a positive impression on Mandel. Plus, of course, Mandel has a point about magic doing well in Vegas. Just look at Season 13 champ Shin Lim!
Simon Cowell has a reputation as the judge who can be "grumpy" (to quote Heidi Klum herself), but he too was full of compliments and praise for the contestants in their final performances to try and win the votes of the viewers who will make the Season 16 champion. There was no grumpiness detected, even (or especially) when comedian Josh Blue dropped a Botox zinger at Cowell's expense! Interestingly, his favorites for a potential Las Vegas stage show are similar to Howie Mandel's, although not quite identical. Cowell said:
I think I'm showing my bias tonight with Aidan [Bryant], literally by getting on the desk. And all the interviews I've done this evening, everyone's asked me, you know, who's my favorite? And I have said Aidan. I think he's extraordinary. I think he's everything Vegas is about, the kind of act he does, the fact he's self taught. He's 16 years old. He risked his life every week on these live shows. And the most important night of his life, you know, he literally does the most incredible performance. I think he's unbelievable. I think he's gonna have a lot of competition though tomorrow night with Dustin [Tavella], with Josh [Blue]. I think those three, I have a feeling will be the last three standing.
There was no ambiguity in Simon Cowell's reaction to Aidan Bryant's big act, when he just ignored that he was seriously injured not all that long ago to climb up on the desk to give Aidan Bryant the well-earned highest of standing ovations that he possibly could. Josh Blue's Botox joke at Cowell's expense actually seemed to make Cowell laugh harder than anybody else in the building, and the "grumpy" judge has consistently praised Dustin Tavella as a storyteller. Cowell may have led the charge in the full group of judges plus Terry Crews in hitting a bonus golden buzzer for Victory Brinker, but she's not in his prediction for the top three!
Terry Crews may not be a judge like Howie Mandel, Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, and Sofia Vergara, but he gets a golden buzzer and holds plenty of sway himself even without a seat at the desk. Like Mandel, Crews has been a loyal supporter of his own golden buzzer, which was World Taekwondo Demonstration Team, who shockingly didn't sail right through to the finals just a couple of weeks ago and had a close call with being cut. In his picks for acts most suited for Las Vegas, Crews ended up agreeing with the two judges, saying:
Oh, my goodness. Well, number one, I'm gonna go with my golden buzzer, World Taekwondo Demonstration Team. That's a Vegas act all the way. You want to see all that. The other Vegas act is Josh [Blue]. I could watch him for an hour, two hours, he would kill it. I never get tired of watching this man do his comedy. It's absolutely incredible. And also, third choice, Aidan Bryant. Man, oh, man. To watch this kid get better and better. To think he was just in his backyard a year ago. It's a testament to a teenager who could put his phone down and go for his dream. I thought 'Oh my god, this kid is amazing!'
You might think that Simon Cowell and Terry Crews were in the same room together when speaking to press when they pitched nearly the same final three, but that's not the case! World Taekwondo Demonstration Team's odds of winning felt better before they wound up at risk for elimination after not getting enough votes to easily advance, which seemed to be proof that riotous applause within the Dolby Theatre doesn't necessarily translate to voters from home. Still, can anybody argue that any of Crews' choices – or Cowell's or Howie Mandel's, for that matter – wouldn't fit with Vegas in some form or other?
Of course, who the judges think would excel on a Las Vegas stage isn't necessarily going to align with who wins the most votes based on their final performances, so don't miss the America's Got Talent results finale that airs on Wednesday, September 15 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC. Some of the network's biggest dramas will be back next week to fill the AGT time slot, so there will still be plenty of TV options.