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IDOL WATCH: The Austin Auditions

Week three of the revamped American Idol kicked off in Austin tonight, and with this third trip to the Lone Star state marks the midpoint of the initial audition round. That's right, in just two weeks, on February 16, the golden ticket holders will begin the annual Hollywood showdown. Until then, we'll have to stay content with the 7500 auditionees that Texas had to offer tonight.

In a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe commented: "You haven't really seen how strong the talent is yet. We can afford to lose 10 great ones this year because they're that good!" Last week Steven Tyler proclaimed that Lauren Alaina was 'the one,' but did Austin supply the 'strong talent' that Lythgoe was talking about? Bring on the strong talent Texas!

The evening started with a bang when Corey Levoy took the stage. After hearing the story of his longtime separation from his sister, the judges invited the supportive sis to join them on the judges' panel. Levoy's smooth tenor voice and clean riffs on 'I Can't Make You Love Me' awed all four of them, and his self- proclaimed 'JLo booty' earned him a little extra attention from Ms. Lopez as well.

On numerous occasions the judges have turned people away who would get 'swallowed up by the competition.' That statement could not apply to any contestant better than little Hollie Cavanaugh. After delivering a very pitchy version of 'At Last' the judges reactions made her instantly burst into tears. She followed that up with 'The Climb' and the judges put her through. Really, American Idol? Really?

23 year-old cowboy John Wayne Schulz decided to take a trip to Austin because he made a promise to his cancer-stricken mother to give American Idol a try; and good thing he's a man of his word. Schulz's hardcore country twang and deep baritone voice rocked Brooks & Dunn's 'Believe' and immediately earned his a coveted golden ticket.

Schulz was followed Courtney Penry, whose wildest dream is to become Mrs. Ryan Seacrest.  Equally terrifying as her passion for American Idol's host was Penry's chicken impression, complete with neck-bobbing and wing-flapping. Surprisingly enough though, Penry proved to have some serious pipes and we'll be seeing her again in Hollywood. Watch out Ryan Seacrest, you haven't seen the last of your future wife!

Nick Fink and Jacqueline Dunford were a cutesy couple with a cutesy story about singing in choir together. Dunford showed off a nice range with 'Mercy,' while Fink sang a very subtle 'Sunday Morning.' Neither was bad, but both were forgettable, and yet both made it through to Hollywood. Again, really?

Amongst the many auditionees included in tonight's 'crazy people' montage was a gladiator-angel hybrid who appropriately sang 'Popular' from WICKED, and a young lady in an armadillo suit, who couldn't understand why the judges wouldn't take her performance seriously. Need I say more?

By far, my favorite performer of the night was 19 year old, Seth Rogan look alike Casey Abrams, who brought along his melodica to his audition. What's a melodica you ask? In short, it's a free-reed instrument that looks like a cross between a clarinet and a piano. Abrams busted out a stellar rendition of Ray Charles' 'I Don't Need No Doctor' that included scatting and smoky high notes. Watch out for this guy!

At the end of the Austin auditions, 50 contestants earned golden tickets to move them on to the next round. Don't forget to check in with BroadwayWorld's IDOL WATCH tomorrow when the auditions travel to the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles.  American Idol airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8pm on Fox.

Miss last American Idol auditions last week? Click here for a full recap!

Emmy Award-winning AMERICAN IDOL is created and executive produced by Simon Fuller, Founder, 19 Entertainment , a division of CKX, Inc.; and executive-produced by Cecile Frot-Coutaz, CEO, FremantleMedia North America, Inc.; Ken Warwick, Executive Producer, FremantleMedia North America, Inc.; and Nigel Lythgoe, President, Big Red 2 Entertainment.

Among the many American Idol finalists and winners to appeared on the Broadway stage are Fantasia, Justin Guarini, Jordin Sparks, Diana DeGarmo, Ace Young, Tamyra Gray, Constantine Maroulis, Frenchie Davis, Clay Aiken and Taylor Hicks.

Visit for exclusive videos, interviews and photos, as well as special behind-the-scenes information and all of your AMERICAN IDOL news.


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From This Author Nicole Rosky