“America’s Got Talent” judge Howie Mandel was so grumpy during Tuesday’s fifth audition episode that he was compared to the Grinch and Frankenstein’s monster by fellow panelists Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum and Sofia Vergara. He said “no” to several acts the others loved, including jump-roper Thomas Evans, aerial performer Lea Hinz and dancers Bob’s Dance Shop. But it was Howie’s critique of musical theater singer Tory Vagasy that ignited a feud at the judges’ table.
The 20-year-old Fort Lauderdale, Florida resident came out on stage full of energy, telling the judges she works with kids as a “party princess.” When Tory explained how her dream in life is to be on Broadway, Howie turned to Heidi and hissed, “I’m not a musical theater lover.” Tory then belted out a powerful cover of “Into the Unknown” from “Frozen 2,” sounding every bit as flawless as Idina Menzel herself.
“She rocked the house!” Terry Crews shouted from his position backstage after Tory’s performance. Sofia, Heidi and Simon jumped up to their feet, while Howie simply clapped from a seated position. Sofia told her she “absolutely” deserves to be on Broadway. Heidi remarked on her “beautiful” and “incredible” voice. And Simon complimented her “brilliant” song choice and how it’s great she already knows what kind of career she wants.
Then came Howie. The Canadian judge began, “There’s no mistaking that you have a powerful voice. And I think that you have the energy, you have the stage presence, you checked every box.” After a quick beat, Howie added, “But honestly, I don’t enjoy that kind of music, so for me it’s a no.”
The audience reacted with immediate boos, to which Simon urged, “I actually don’t think you’re booing loud enough.” Howie put his fingers in his ear like a precocious child and pretended not to hear all of the loud grumbles from the crowd.
Simon continued on, “You know what? I think it’s time that we stand up to the Howies of this world and make a statement here … We’re not gonna take this anymore, Howie. We’re not gonna listen to people like you anymore. We’re going to support talent. We’re going to encourage talent.”
After receiving three “yes” votes from the other judges, Tory officially advanced to the next round. Backstage, she explained to Terry, “It meant the world that Simon said that. That just made me so happy.” Her message to fans watching at home? “Don’t give up. Even when the Howies of this world tell you no.”