Dubliner Linda McLoughlin and dance troupe FKNT reach final of Ireland's Got Talent
Dublin's The Helix became a hive of activity tonight as drag acts, singers, dance troupes, rappers and aerialists descended on the venue for the first semi-final of Ireland's Got Talent.
After seven weeks of auditions where people from across the country showcased their talents for the nation, the judges chose their top performers to take to the stage for the three semi-finals this week before the grand finale on Saturday.
The acts spent hours in rehearsals throughout the day before the show began, with nerves high in the make-up room in the hours leading up to the show.
"All the semi-finalists have been together all day and we got to know each other," said singer Linda McLoughlin ahead of taking to the stage.
Dubliner Linda and Leinster dance troupe FKNT were the two acts sent through to the final.
FKFT received the highest number of votes while the judges chose to send Linda through to the final when it came down to her and drag act Paul Ryder.
The dance troupe was the first to perform and received a standing ovation from the studio audience.
"This is all about when you come in and show us what else you can do," said judge Jason Byrne. "It was deadly."
Next up was 68-year-old Dubliner Matt Dodd whose powerful rendition of Bring Him Home from Les Miserables drew praise from the judges, with all of them saying he deserved a place in the final.
Liberties woman and former X Factor hopeful Tamara Operi showcased her rapping skills to Diana Ross' I'm Coming Out and her own composition.
She received a mixed reception from the judges, with Denise Van Outen telling her she couldn't understand what she was saying.
The chandelier for Keava Air Candy's aerial moves was especially flown in from the Berlin and no safety harness was used for her gravity defying performance which drew universal praise from the panel, with Louis telling her she made the intricate moves look easy.
Host Lucy Kennedy's Golden Buzzer Christopher King sang to Garth Brooks' The Dance with Denise saying he was "the total package" while Louis compared him to Nathan Carter and Daniel O'Donnell and said he could be Ireland's next big country star.
Mini Puppet Popstars danced their socks off to Beyonce, Michael Jackson and Basshunter and were praised by the judges for bringing "good fun" and making them laugh, although Michelle Visage questioned how much further their act can be taken.
Linda McLoughlin gave a soaring rendition of Jennifer Rush's The Power Of Love and was the first performer of the night to receive a standing ovation from all four of the judges.
The Cabra woman (38) had struggled with her confidence in singing for years before she plucked up the courage to try out for the show.
"I didn't believe in myself. I did talent shows in school and I did a couple of karaoke competitions over the years but to put yourself out there on a local stage is completely different," she said.
Drag act Paul Ryder and his dance troupe showed The Helix a good time with a rendition of Jessie J's Bang Bang after he left a lasting impression on the judges during his audition.
He received a universal standing ovation from the judges with Michelle Visage describing it as a "beautiful performance" and said she was "so proud" of him.
Eight more acts will perform in Wednesday night's semi-final where another two will be sent through, along with two more on Thursday.
The six remaining acts will perform in Saturday night's grand finale, with the winner taking home the €50,000 prize and their own one-off special on TV3.