The World’s Best chooses its first champion tonight, and I could not be more excited if Paul Manafort were charged with 47 more counts of bank fraud.
The remaining acts, all of which I’ve forgotten, compete in the Championships Round, and we’ll learn the winners of the Solo Music and Group Variety categories. Then the last four acts standing, twirling, jumping or singing take each other on. Finally, the winner will be anointed and quickly consigned to oblivion. But it’ll probably be more fun than a root canal performed by someone dressed as the IT clown.
You’ll be interested to know that the show’s set designer says, “The initial aesthetic challenge was to make the set galactic, but also chic,” which is a perfect way to describe RuPaul. There’s also about two miles of embedded LED tape in the Wall of the World alone. That wasn’t mentioned in the Paris Accord.
Group Variety includes Kukkiwon Board-Breakers & Lumber Futures, Dundu the light-up Pillsbury Doughboy, and the Kung Fu Fighters of Shaolin Yagtze. Appearing first, Kukkiwon members leap ever higher, breaking a record number of boards and making Loew’s pretty angry. The stage is littered with wood chips when the last guy flips completely over as he madly kicks apart a several boards one after the other. He needs a serious foot rub now.
In the next act, a mini Dundude, possibly Dundu Jr., is playing with some jellyfish, and gets electrocuted like someone threw a toaster in the tub. That’s a downer for Dundu. He returns to life when full-sized Dundu and the Missus arrive and lay hands on him like a 1000-watt faith healer. Next to his parents, Junior looks like a preemie marionette.
Everyone enjoys this puppet Christ parable, especially since the Christian singing lady wasn’t blessed with success. The performance brings Drew to tears, but she may just be relieved she didn’t bribe any college officials. One international judge, however, is unimpressed. “I’m done,” he says bluntly, just like Colton on The Bachelor last night. He must have hit on Lady Dundu backstage and got rejected.
Now for the Shaolin Yangtze guys. They wave red flags and scream a lot as they tumble, spin, and point poles at each other’s necks. That happened to me once when I was on line at the ATM. Then one guy suction-cups a steel bowl to his belly, and all the other guys stick their poles through a strap attached to it, pick him up and twirl him like spaghetti on a fork. It’s like cupping for masochists.
Faith likes their energetic schtick that recalls Bruce Lee movies, if he attacked criminals exclusively in Las Vegas theaters. These scores, along with Kukkiwon’s and Donedeal’s, remain secret until all three acts have performed, or until the tech guy can unfreeze the screen.
Who will go home of the three? It’s the Shaolin Yangtze Kung Fu group. I wouldn’t make them mad if I were a judge.
Now the Kukkiwon Krowd gets 50 from the American judges, while Dundu gets 48. It’s up to the world to decide the winner. The result? Dundundun and his family are going back to Germany, where they can adopt a sock puppet.
Time for the singing competition. Daneliya Tuleshova, the Kazakhstani tween, feels she can make it to the grand finale. If not, those rhinestone-covered ear pieces will get her into the clubs. Her backup dancers appear to be building an IKEA shelving unit behind her. I frankly don’t understand all the fuss about Daneliya’s voice, or the countless letters in her name, but young, blond, and earnest subtitles seem to check a lot of boxes for people.
Next is adorable little Lydian Nadhaswaram, the child pianist from India with suits like Earring Magic Ken would wear. He plays the theme scores from various movie franchises, including Harry Potter, Mission: Impossible, and Jurassic Park. Thank goodness he left off the theme from Love Story. Where do I begin, to tell the story of how great a love can be. . . . Damn, now it’s stuck in my head.
At one point, Lydian combines the tunes, just to show off how he tickles the ivories until it becomes bullying instead of innocent fun. Corden then torments the audience with his humorous playing of the threatening low notes from Jaws. I can play a brief section of Minuet in G Major, but only if I remember that Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. Lydian’s dad is weepy, probably at Corden trying to steal the limelight from his kid.
Now for Dimash, the six-octave guy who’s also from Kazakhstan. Are flamboyant singers the country’s principle export? The turgid melody Dimash treat us to tonight is Adagio, always a fan favorite for fans with no musical sophistication. The smoke machine is churning madly as Dimash falls to his knees to utter a final note that can only be heard by dogs.
Post-applause, Dimash has something to say through his interpreter. He wants the two talented children who performed before him to move forward. He will drop out of the competition, probably because he’s been offered a more lucrative contract by the MGM Grand. Most people are taken aback at this show of generosity. But an indignant Faith lectures the young man about what this show is all about: Stomping the competition into the dirt. “This is some BS,” Ru declares, shaking a finger at him for giving up. Dimash insists it’s not about his ego. He departs, satisfied that his decision was correct. You haven’t heard the last of Dinmukhamed Kanatuly Kudaibergen.
So now it’s Lydian vs. Danielya, like Linus vs. Peppermint Patty or Richie Rich vs. Veronica Lodge. I mean, there’s no right choice, it’s just whom you like. She gets 48 from the Americans, while he gets 44, and ultimately takes the title. Let’s admit it: Danielyas are a dime a dozen.
Now for remaining acts to fight it out. It’s Nancy Conti the ventriloquist vs. Kukkiwon, and then Lydian vs. Naturally 7. Such odd pairs to compete against each other, like asking a food critic to choose between caviar and DiGiorno’s pizza.
Lydian plays Moonlight Sonata with his usual aplomb and a giant cardboard moon hanging predictably overhead. He’s learned to flip his Bobby Sherman hair to great effect. Then they play back his performance while he accompanies himself on the drums. If he follows that with the Earth Harp, he’s got this thing in the bag.
Next comes Naturally 7. They’re nervous about going up against a cute kid, and only with their mouths. These guys are so polished and snazzy and fun to watch. They must win. Drew likes them, too, although you have to question her judgment when she’s dressed like the Wicked Witch of the West on prom night.
Now for the scores that will reduce the competitors to one of the final two. The Americans gave Lydian 47; Naturally 7 gets 48. The world considers its next move, like right before World War II. The title goes to Lydian. Someone give N7 a contract!
With any luck, Kukkiwon will now kick the sh*t out of Nina Conti’s monkey puppet. First, Corden displays a 25-pound piece of marble that Kukkiwon is going to bust up like Michelangelo’s David caught in an earthquake. The guy does the job with a hearty yell, and then the group commences with its usual madcap board-breaking fest, kicking pieces from all angles and heights. It’s getting to be a little one-note, I have to say. Ru tells them to clean up the mess. Faith wants to learn how to break boards with her feet without ruining her pedicure.
Nina Conti appreciates that if she wins, it will be life-changing. She could even get her monkey puppet dry-cleaned. Yet she has not learned that no one likes someone who laughs at their own jokes. She climbs into a big black bag with Monkey sticking out, negating the whole point of being a ventriloquist. Then she gets out of the bag, and puts the monkey puppet into a tote bag from Walmart. The puppet’s voice threatens to possess her like Pazuzu in The Exorcist. Wayland and Madame were a less creepy act. For that matter, so was Linda Blair.
Scoring! Kukkiwon gets 48 first, while Nina gets 43. What does the world think? They prefer board-kicking to monkey-fisting. It makes sense, as Nina Conti could never improve on a demonic chimp that stopped just short of forcing her to defile a statue of the Virgin.
Finally, we’re down to Lydian vs. Kukkiwon. Piano-playing vs. board-kicking. Moptop vs. shaved heads. One uses his fingers, the other their feet. A more mismatched pair vying against each other has not been seen since Nicolas Cage and Lisa Marie Presley.
By now, Kukkiwon has kicked apart the equivalent of an Indianapolis suburb. Every performance is repetitive toe bruising and kindling. At least Dundu added a scuba-diving baby to its act.
Here’s Lydian again. He’s playing two pianos at once, one white and one black. I’ll be impressed when he also plays with his toes on two more pianos.
Scores are locked in now. We’ll finally see a light at the end of this tunnel of mediocrity. I just hope the light isn’t more sequins. The Americans gave Kukkiwon a solid 50–what the hell–and Lydian a 47, because Ru slapped him back with a 40 to Faith and Drew’s 50 each. Every gal likes a cute little boy with a Beatles’ do.
Now it’s up to the world. The numbers click upward steadily for both acts until Lydian surges forward for the win. At least his parents won’t have to bribe any music schools to get him admitted.