Britain's Got Talent 2010: Will one of these hopefuls be the next Susan Boyle?
Published 16/04/2010 | 09:22
A 10-year-old girl who sings like Vera Lynn is one of the early favourites to win Britain's Got Talent.
ITV's ratings juggernaut returns for a fourth series tomorrow with the usual assortment of dancing dogs, warbling pensioners and aspiring opera stars competing for a £100,000 (€114,000) prize and a slot at the Royal Variety Performance.
One of the genuine talents is Chloe Hickinbottom, a schoolgirl who attended the Birmingham audition. She astonished the judges by performing White Cliffs of Dover in a voice powerful beyond her years.
Amanda Holden, one of the three judges, said: "I can't believe a little 10-year-old girl has such a beautiful, old-fashioned voice. I thought it was really touching that you sang Vera Lynn."
Other hopefuls who impressed the judges included Tobias Mead, 22, who gave up a career as a footballer to pursue his dream of becoming a dancer.
Kieran Gaffney, 13, a drummer who made it through the early auditions last year, returns for a second shot at stardom.
Those unlikely to make it to the Royal Variety and an audience with the Queen include a tambourine act, a group of naked balloon dancers and a woman who feeds mashed potato to her pet parrot.
Chloe is one of the standout performers in the first episode.
She burst into tears when she received a standing ovation from the audience and three 'yeses' from the judges, and rushed into the arms of her family who were waiting in the wings.
The participation of children on Britain's Got Talent caused concern last year and prompted a Government review of regulations covering young performers. Several children were overcome by emotion in the last series, including Hollie Steel, also aged 10, who broke down on stage after nerves got the better of her. Some critics called for the introduction of a minimum age requirement.
The programme-makers also faced questions over their handling of Susan Boyle, last year's runner-up, who was admitted to a clinic with "exhaustion" a day after the final.
This year, a psychologist was on hand at every audition to provide emotional support to the contestants.
Simon Cowell, the show's resident Mr Nasty, is hoping that a canine performer will win the show. "I'm looking for the perfect dog act. I'd like to find the next Lassie," he said.
Louis Walsh, the X Factor judge, acted as stand-in at one audition after Cowell fell ill. He was unceremoniously booted out of the auditorium when Cowell returned from his sick bed.
Episode 1 hopefuls
The act: Perma-tanned "cruise ship entertainer" character who performs song and dance medleys and idolises Jane McDonald.
Simon Cowell's verdict: "My normal observation is that anyone who works on a cruise ship is normally pretty terrible. That's why they're on a ship."
The act: Tobias, 22, was a promising footballer but gave it up to pursue his dancing dream.
This is not his first attempt at television stardom - he previously appeared in Living TV show Dirty Dancing: The Time of Your Life.
His family disapprove of his choices. Tobias said: "When I was younger my dad pushed me into footballer. He had high hopes for me to be a footballer. I don't speak to my brothers any more because I dance, which I think is stupid."
Simon Cowell's verdict: "Every so often somebody comes along who is just brilliant and I think we are going to remember the first time we saw you."
The act: Chloe is just 10 but sings White Cliffs of Dover just like Vera Lynn. She said: "If I win the £100,000 I'll spend it on tutus and leggings. And jeggings."
Piers Morgan's verdict: "It's hard to imagine a better act for the Royal Variety Performance."
TINA and CHANDI
The act: Music teacher Tina adopted Chandi, a black and white mongrel, from a rescue centre. She is now known as Chandi the Amazing Dancing Dog.
Louis Walsh's verdict: "It's the best dog act I've ever seen. Chandi is a star. She has great likeability."
The act: Talented drummer Kieron, 13, returns for a second shot at stardom after narrowly missing out on a semi-final place last year.
This time he is joined by his mum on vocals and his dad on guitar, but their family music act fails to impress the judges and Kieron is told to ditch them if he wants to continue in the competition.
Simon Cowell's verdict: "The act like this is just utterly atrocious."
THE CHEEKY BOYS
The act: Four gentlemen of a certain age who do unusual things with balloons.
Simon Cowell's verdict: "What would happen if your balloons popped in front of the Queen?"
The act: Two 40-something ladies with matching pink outfits and a belief that playing the tambourine - or the timbrel, to be more precise - can be entertaining.
Simon Cowell's verdict: "There's a reason no-one has ever been successful playing tambourines before."