Hip hop dance troupes, twirlers, teen pop wannabes, comedians, crooners, classically trained musicians, magicians, belly dancers, exotic pink flamingo riding unicyclists—and, of course, Elvis impersonators because there always has to be at least one of those—filled Baltimore's Convention Center Thursday for America's Got Talent traveling open auditions. Oh yeah, bearded folk singers, too. And beatboxers. The place felt a little like being backstage at a carnival freak show. But we mean that in the best possible way.
Whether to relieve stress, the boredom of long waiting lines, or just for fun, an impromptu dance-off broke out in the holding room at one point early in the afternoon (see above photo).
With hopefuls lining up at 5 a.m. on Pratt Street, executive producer Jason Raff told Baltimore that he expected maybe 3,000 to turn out over the whole day. "It's like when you throw a party, you never know how many will come," Raff said. "But we'll be here to midnight or 1 a.m. if that's what it takes to see everybody. As long as you're here by 7 p.m. and have a photo I.D. and sign the paperwork, you'll get an opportunity to perform."
By "opportunity," Raff means 90 seconds to impress the show's producers, who arrived on the heels of similar open auditions in Greensboro, NC, Nashville, TN, and six other cities before finishing up in Providence, RI, and then Los Angeles, CA. Ultimately, the show's producers will whittle the audition tapes down to their favorite 500, which will then go to America's Got Talent judges Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, and former Spice Girl Mel B. for further review—and a shot at TV and the million dollar top prize.
Below, melodica player Zach Feng Zhu, from Philadelphia by way of Beijing, and Baltimore beatboxer Cory Braxton improv after meeting in the morning registration line.