'America's Got Talent' premiere recap: Beyoncé collaborator earns Simon Cowell's praise

The "America's Got Talent" gang is back.

In Tuesday's premiere, Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, Sofía Vergara and host Terry Crews returned to the show's home base at LA's Pasadena Civic Auditorium to see what kind of new talent — or lack thereof — they would discover 19 seasons into the competition show.

The two-hour episode on NBC featured 11 auditions, two golden buzzers, a pair of two-pointe shoes, several seemingly rearranged fingers and one of the creepiest contortionists you'll ever see.

Of course, there were a few duds involving way too many toilet plungers and a dog that wanted to be anywhere but on the "AGT" stage. But for every grimace from a judge, there was also real talent and heart from some featured performers.

The talent-is-made-here illusion may be shattered when you realize some of the contestants already had a bit of a head start in their respective careers (spoiler: one of the singers can be heard on Beyoncé's record-breaking "Cowboy Carter") but that's not to say they're not deserving of a national stage. It's all in the name of entertainment.

Here are highlights from the "AGT" Season 19 premiere.

Reyna Roberts, who sang on Beyoncé's 'Blackbiird,' performs an original

Beyonce collaborator Reyna Robert performed an original titled "Raised Right."
Beyonce collaborator Reyna Robert performed an original titled "Raised Right."

Many "AGT" viewers might not recognize Reyna Roberts by sight but might be familiar with her sound.

That's because she was one of several Black country artists Beyoncé brought on for the tracks "Blackbiird" and "Tyrant" in "Cowboy Carter." (Though they don't highlight this major accomplishment on the show.)

Wearing a matching red leather set complete with thigh-high boots and her signature long red hair, Reyna rocked the stage with the assured attitude of, say, Lady A or Carrie Underwood as she effortlessly hit the high notes.

Mandel was the only naysayer of the group — "It didn't hook me," he said — with the judges ultimately handing the country artist three yeses.

"I'm so thrilled, beyond thrilled, that you came on the show, really," Cowell said.

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Ballerina accomplishes 'one of the most difficult acts' that 'AGT' has seen

Ashlee Montague proved to a very doubtful Cowell that ballet can make good TV.

Described in her Instagram bio as a Guinness World Record holder, "extreme ballerina" and Cirque du Soleil alum, Ashlee started her performance with what in itself would be an impressive routine. But she outdid herself by climbing a platform at least a dozen feet in the air to accomplish a stunt that had everyone on the edge of their seats.

Ashlee Montague walks across glass bottles while on pointe
Ashlee Montague walks across glass bottles while on pointe

While on pointe in her ballet shoes, Ashlee miraculously maintained her balance as she tiptoed across the tiny lips of 10 glass bottles.

Cowell, who'd declared under his breath earlier that "nobody actually likes the ballet," was eating his words.

Ashlee's four weeks of nonstop rehearsing paid off, and she made it across the props — an accomplishment that left her in tears and the judges eager to give her their yeses.

"You’ve found a way of making it interesting," Cowell said of Ashlee's extreme version of ballet, adding that her performance was "one of the most difficult acts we’ve seen for a long, long time."

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Who earned the Golden Buzzer?

Learnmore Jonasi performed a standup comedy routine.
Learnmore Jonasi performed a standup comedy routine.

Learnmore Jonasi, a Zimbabwean comedian living in the U.S. who learned English from watching standup specials, earned a standing ovation for his routine. He pointed out the differences between the rural village he's from and the American culture he's experienced, making Cowell argue he was "one of the funniest people we’ve had."

According to his website, Learnmore has been highlighted by Steve Harvey's Spotlight Contest and has a booking agent and a manager. He might not quite be an undiscovered talent, but he certainly won the judges — and the audience — over. He had the honor of earning the Golden Buzzer from one of his heroes, Terry Crews.

Klum awarded the Golden Buzzer to Richard Goodall, the final audition of the night, for his spot-on rendition of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." The 55-year-old school elementary school custodian, who's been in the profession for 23 years, was nervous as he took to the stage in a newsboy cap and rectangular glasses.

Richard Goodall sang a spot-on cover of "Don't Stop Believin'."
Richard Goodall sang a spot-on cover of "Don't Stop Believin'."

To top it all off, this trip to LA was his first time on an airplane.

Richard, who went viral in 2022 for his Journey performance at his students' graduation and earned praise from Steve Perry and the iconic band, may not have ended up on "The Voice," per a TikTok he posted nearly two years ago.

But he now has the bragging rights as Cowell's "hero."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'AGT' recap: Beyoncé collaborator Reyna Roberts earns Cowell's praise