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Posted on Tue, Aug 27, 2013 : 11:09 p.m.

'America's Got Talent' recap: Saline resident's group Forte scores with 'Unchained Melody'

By Jenn McKee

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Saline resident and U-M grad Sean Panikkar, along with fellow Forte singers Josh Page and Fernando Varela, made a pretty convincing argument for America's votes on Tuesday's night's episode of "America's Got Talent."

And if the singing trio is in fact voted through to the next, quarter final round of the show - which is scheduled to air on Tuesday, September 10 - they can credit their polished performance of "Unchained Melody" on Tuesday night, but they might also, perhaps, have the strong advocacy of AGT judge Howard Stern to thank.

"From the opening notes, you had me," said Stern after Forte's performance, which wrapped up the two hour show. "Now that’s the sign of true professionals. This is what we’ve been waiting for. It’s been a very strange night. I’m going to say that the pressure of the semifinals has gotten to everyone, but you guys and (singer Cami Bradley), probably. Aside from that, everyone was just a little bit off. But you guys consistently come out here, you know how to perform, you know how to move an audience, you know how to pick a song. … It was beautiful. Congratulations."

Forte, 1st Semi-Final performs ~ AGT 2013 Live by HumanSlinky

Tuesday night's line-up of semi-finalists included 3 judges' "wild card" picks: rapper Tone the Chiefrocca (chosen by Mel B); acrobat Red Panda (chosen by Howie Mandel after one member of an acrobat duo was injured during rehearsal); and dancer/acrobats Duo Resonance (chosen by Heidi Klum).

The remaining 9 contestants, who earned their spot via audience vote, were comedian Angela Hoover; magician Collins Key; a young gymnastics team called Innovative Force; singer Dave Fenley; comedian Taylor Williamson; singer Jonathan Allen; multimedia dance troupe Catapult Entertainment; singer Cami Bradley; and Forte.

Often, reality show talent competitions schedule the act that producers consider to be the strongest contender at the end of the program, and that clearly seemed to be in play during Tuesday evening's episode of AGT. Every act seemed to be building up to the Forte finale.

"Wow, wow and wow," said Heidi Klum after Forte's performance. "That's all I have to say. So good. Loved it."

"You solidified yourself a place in the quarterfinals, … and maybe solidified a career for yourselves," Mandel said.

Even Mel B, who'd been lukewarm about Forte in previous rounds, said, "I've changed my mind. I really bloody like you."

Fans can vote for Forte by calling 1-866-60-AGT-12, or by visiting AGT's website, or via Twitter (#voteAGT Forte). The results will be announced on the AGT episode scheduled to air on Wednesday, August 28 at 9 p.m. on NBC. 6 of the 12 acts that competed on Tuesday night will advance to next round of competition.

Jenn McKee is an entertainment reporter for Reach her at or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.



Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

I have no idea how anyone else did (don't watch much tv) but these guys were truly AWESOME! Very powerful voices, stage presence, harmony.... they had it all. As Stern said, they had it from the first note. I literally had chills listening to them perform. Not sing... but perform because they are true performers and entertainers.

Charley Sullivan

Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 3:55 p.m.

Last night, as I was watching, I though, gee, except for Sean, I've heard better voices at U-M all the time. So nice to find out he's home grown talent. In my opinion, Sean is the only good voice in that group. The other two are window dressing. But, at least they know that, having saved Sean's entrance to later in each of their past two attempts. If Sean's family reads this, here's my two cents to pass on or not as you choose, of course. They've shown they have a big sound (again, thanks to Sean,) but they've yet to show they're opera singers: no characterization, no acting, nothing personal, bland concert faces. My suggestion: a mini-scene from Les Mis or something else, where all three act and play roles, where there's tension, where there's art. Time to step stuff up, because replaying the Three Tenors has sorta been done.

Charley Sullivan

Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

That's why Les Mis . . . it builds quickly, and people have a sense of the plot . . . and I sincerely trust America to NOT get opera right (both the male judges "hate opera" but love this . . . ) but without any personality added, this will start to come off as the same old stuff. And truly, the other two voices aren't good enough for the straight up singing.

Jenn McKee

Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 4:55 p.m.

That's a really interesting suggestion, Charley. The tricky thing, though, is that the performers only have 90 seconds to work with. (Panikkar talks about this a bit in my recent email interview with him: This rules out a lot of options, and you necessarily have to choose something that builds briskly. Here's hoping they get a bit more performance time if/when they reach the finals.

Jack Gladney

Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 12:23 p.m.

I wasn't going to bother, but holy cow! If they have strong advocacy from Howard Stern (a.k.a Fartman, failed motion picture and WWE character who fights advesaries with flatulence) they must be special. I'll be sure to vote and vote often.


Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 12:54 p.m.

Did you watch the video? Don't take Howard's word for it. Forte is a group of extremely talented guys!


Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 5:01 a.m.

Something major to point out: Angela Hoover was NOT a wild card! She earned her place in the semi-finals by America's votes, same as most everyone else. In fact, she was the one who beat out "Tone the Chiefrocca" in her first live show performance night. I recommend correcting that ASAP. Thank You.

Jenn McKee

Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 12:35 p.m.

My apologies. I've made the fix, and I appreciate the heads up. I'll confess, this was my first time watching the show - can I add here, as an aside, that two hours for a television show feels a bit long? - and because the first performers were "wild cards," I thought Hoover was as well. Thanks for clarifying the issue.