Review: New Zealand's Got Talent

21:36, Sep 15 2013
Host Tamati Coffey hangs with young talents from the Troublemakers Dance Crew.
Michael Hempsed who didn't impress the judges with his magic trick. Great costume though!
The judging table: Jason Kerrison, Rachel Hunter and Cris Judd.
Ten-year-old Oceana is getting ready for her heartbreaking moment.
A magical moment for 83-year-old Bill Watson from Timaru.
Amazing voice Jemmy Mitchell from Gore.
James Lee knows how to rock!
Michael Jackson seems to have been re-born in 10-year-old Ethan Scharneck.

Can there possibly be any talent left in our small country that hasn't been swept out in last year's New Zealand Got Talent and this year's The X Factor?

Thousands auditioned and we watched hundreds perform. So really, are we ready for yet another talent show?

TVNZ feels confident enough that there are still enough acts left to entertain us for another season of the show that delivered the best ratings for the broadcaster in a decade.

They stuck mainly to the golden rule of 'never change a winning team' by bringing back host Tamati Coffey and "our Rach", Rachel Hunter, as well as Jason Kerrison on the judging panel. The new addition to the team is American choreographer Cris Judd, who is replacing UB40's Ali Campbell.

But to be honest, most of us won't know who Judd is.

Well, he's not that Aussie Rules fella of the same name. He was once married to Jennifer Lopez (in between her dating Sean Combs, aka Puff Daddy, aka P.Diddy and almost marrying the next Batman Ben Affleck). But he's also been the lead dancer on Michael Jackson's HISory Tour.


But let's talk show now.

We saw sleek dancers, god-awful singers, weirdos, a whole bunch of cute kids and a couple of charming elderly people. And some pure-talent-show gold with 10-year-old Oceana.

The main difference between NZGT and The X Factor is that the latter is all about saleability and market-value of the soon-to-be star (something we just never quite believed), while this one is a family show, with the sole purpose to entertain us.

And entertained it has.

Right from the start we met some likeable odd-balls, such as 28-year-old Michael Hempseed from Christchurch.

While his "magic trick", entailing about "160 things that can go wrong", fell flat with the judges.

We saw lots of performances that probably seemed right when performed at karaoke night at 3am ("that went better in practice") and dance numbers that shouldn't have left the dance-floor-turned-garage

But we did see some talent, some charmers and some heartbreakers as well.

There was, for example, 14-year-old Aucklander Mansell Lavelua, who's actually a fan of more up-beat numbers but decided to sing a song by boyband One Direction, "to make the girls smile."

Is he an outstanding talent, poised to go on to conquer the word? Probably not. But did he make us smile? He certainly did.

There was also Identity Dance Crew, they look a bit like the Moorhouse of dance. They look like a bunch of well-adjusted guys, dressed neatly in outfits that would go down well at church as well as on board the Starship Enterprise.

I don't know a lot about dance, but they were rad and scored the first standing ovations.

Twenty minutes in and our hard, hard hearts were about to be melted into little puddles of goo.

We met Christchurch student Oceana Olsen, who was born with a bone condition that makes it difficult for her to walk. The adorable and well-spoken 10-year-old has to rely on a wheelchair most of the time.

But for her performance she lifted herself out of it and made her way on the big stage to sing Christina Aguilera's Beautiful.

She's got a massive voice in a small body and had everybody in tears by the time she finished.

"That was the most moving thing I've seen in a long time," judge Judd said.

In a show like The X Factor there wouldn't really be room for somebody like her. She's unlikely to be ready for a record contract and an international career. But she made us smile (after we brushed away those tears).

The next contestant, Siuleo Vitale, would be a hit on any cruise ship with his mean keyboard skills and big smile, and 83-year-old magician Bill Watson could make whole retirement villages fall for him.

There was a bit of highland dancing, which Kerrison hated and everybody else loved but the next great moment came with 14-year-old Jenny Mitchell from New Zealand's answer to Nashville: Gore.

She performed the Dixie Chicks' Godspeed (Sweet Dreams). Her voice is deep and grand, her dad's proud as punch and Kerrison looks like he falls a bit in love with her.

The next memorable moment is marred by a bit of borderline racism. Because, wow, who would have thought that Asians can do heavy metal, eh? Was it really necessary to add subtitles to James Lee's introduction.

"I didn't understand a word you say, but it was freaking awesome," judge Judd says after South Korean chef Lee let his inner beast loose on stage, with Iron Maiden's Run To The Hills.

Another great bunch of kids are the Troublemakers dance crew, who "mostly go to school" and delivered a sleek act.

Jo Taylor's odd sign-language interpretation act made me laugh out loud and Karl Richardson's "shamazing" performance made at least his mum sort of proud.

And then Michael Jackson took to the stage. His spirit must have left his body when he died in 2009 and found an unlikely resting place in a 10-year-old New Zealand boy.

Ethan Scharneck danced like the King of Pop and looks the part too. He got the approval of judge Judd who worked with Jackson himself for many years. Judd couldn't help himself  - he mounted  the stage to start a dance-off with the pint-sized singer.

Did we see amazing talents with potential to become international superstars? Maybe not. But the first episode of NZGT succeeded in entertaining me, making me laugh and cry.

And in the preview of the next show, we see what we're all be waiting for: An dog act. Bring it on New Zealand, bring it on.

What did you think about the first episode of New Zealand's Got Talent?