‘AGT’ ventriloquist honors ONJ: ‘A glimpse of what would have been if Olivia Newton-John was born in Spain’

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When Madrid-based ventriloquist Celia Muñoz was preparing to compete in the America’s Got Talent qualifying rounds this year, she probably had no idea that one of her song choices, the Grease love ballad “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” would end up providing such an emotional moment.

But just two weeks earlier, on Aug. 8, Grease’s iconic Sandy, Olivia Newton-John, died at age 73. And so, as the Season 17 Qualifiers continued Tuesday, both the AGT panelists and viewers on Twitter were thrilled with Celia’s unexpected homage. Judge Heidi Klum raved, “I love the tribute to ONJ,” while Howie Mandel even told Celia she had “given us a glimpse of what would have been if Olivia Newton-John was born in Spain.”

Judge Sofia Vergara, an accomplished ventriloquist herself, appreciated that Celia, a trained opera singer, did her act without any traditional puppets. Instead, Celia threw her a cappella voice to various inanimate objects — like, in the case of Tuesday’s “Hopelessly Devoted” performance, a drive-in theater screen — while simultaneously eating movie-theater confessions and never missing a beat or flubbing a single syllable.

Simon Cowell was highly amused by this trickery, telling Celia, “So many people are used so seeing the ventriloquist with a dummy, they might have tuned in and said, ‘This is a very odd singer! So, I was laughing so much, but it was brilliant.” Simon even declared Celia the night’s “best act so far.”

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However, 11 total acts took the stage Tuesday, and on Wednesday’s live results show, only two of those acts, as voted by America, will advance to the season finale. I do think Celia has a great chance of being in this week’s top two, and she could even win the whole show next month, just like her AGT ventriloquism idols Terry Fator and Darci Lynn before her.

As for the other contestants’ chances this week, I think it’s unlikely that light-show spectacular MPLUSPLUS, hockey-stick tricksters the Cline Twins, JoJo Siwa protégés XOMG POP!, one-woman band Mia Morris, family singing act JoJo & Bri, or goofy dance duo Funkanometry will advance, because they either received mixed reviews from the judges or simply failed to live up to the promise of their first auditions.

My guess is that this week’s second slot will go to Simon’s Golden Buzzer pick, 14-year-old Polish singer Sara James, who performed in the “pimp spot” and stunned with Elton John’s “Rocket Man” (a song choice Simon declared was “genius”). However, singer-songwriter Amanda Mammana, hearing-impaired comedian/activist/dog-lover Hayden Kristal, and French magician Nicolas Ribs could all pull off a slight upset and make it instead.

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See you Wednesday… and I’m just putting this out there now: If Celia Muñoz does make it, I would love her to sing an Olivia Newton-John hit from the Xanadu soundtrack in the finals.

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