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Reality show auditions prove that "˜Vietnam's Got Talent' of all kinds: song, dance and drama

A group of handicapped contestants from a center for the disabled in Binh Duong Province moved the judges to tears with their range of talents

Around 3,500 applicants lined up inside and outside a Ho Chi Minh City theater to audition for "Vietnam's Got Talent," the local incarnation of the hit British talent show in which participants' various performances are judged by celebrities.

Another 77 auditioned in the Mekong Delta Province of Long An and 320 tried out in the Delta's de facto capital city of Can Tho. The groups were eclectic mixes of people from all walks of life. The oldest was 86 and youngest was 3 years old.

Quach Van Do, an 86-year-old man from Can Tho, is a former soldier who now lives in the southern province of Soc Trang. He's been penniless his whole life and now lives at a local social support center. He has no identity papers and no known family, but he loves singing. He spoke politely and dressed plainly but properly. And when he opened his mouth to sing his stunning voice and spirit shook the room.

Hoang Nhat Quang, a 23-year-old bartender in HCMC drew much attention from both the judges and his rivals. Wearing thick makeup and a heavy stage costume in the scorching noon sun made him perspire profusely, but his smile still shone through.

Quang played famous Chinese beauty Xi Shi in an extract from the cai luong opera Giang son va my nhan (Nation and Beauty.) He was the girl incarnation and sang the difficult cai luong tunes beautifully. But the icing on the cake was when Quang's traditional peacock dance made the judges' jaws drop.

The waiting room at the Nha Hat Quan Doi (Army Theater) in HCMC was both lively and peaceful: families sat together to encourage their relatives who were participating. Moms prepared their daughters' and sons' costumes and hair. Some of the tinier younger contestants, many of whom planned to sing or dance, cried and quit before the try-out after being intimidated by the large crowds. The attendees were men, women, boys and girls, young and old, the disabled, and even whole families performing together.

Director Danny Nguyen, one of the judges of the three-day audition in HCMC, said there was no shortage of talent, and it thus took something extra to get noticed.

"Finding a clever way to show the talent is more important than just having talent," he told Thanh Nien Weekly. "Some attendees had a lot of talent, but they failed as they did not know how to stand out from the crowd."

Hoang Nhat Quang, a 23-year-old bartender in Ho Chi Minh City, wearing thick makeup and a heavy stage costume to incarnate a female character of cai luong, Quang also astonished the judges with a traditional peacock dance

Up and coming music composer Nguyen Hai Phong is considered the most fastidious judge. Each time he heard a contestant sing in English, he made them perform another song in Vietnamese, to be sure that the judges weren't just wowed by language skills, but instead by the sheer quality of a singer's voice and vocal abilities.

"Singing in English makes us too interested and we easily make mistakes," he said. "It is better to check the talent again with native songs"¦ Real gold is not afraid of fire."

If anyone proved that point it was Nguyen Minh Phu, who lost two arms to Agent Orange/Dioxin poisoning. Phu had to ask another contestant to help him drink a glass of water while he waited to perform.

Despite the disadvantage, the 21-year-old student from HCMC's University of Information Technology was a force of nature once he began singing and acting on stage. Phu said nothing would ever stop him from enjoying the performing arts.

"I'm not afraid of being compared to other people, as I do not think that figure can define talent," he said.

Dinh Quang Bao Tan, born in 1994, was born with Down Syndrome and he loves watching reality shows. According to his mom, her son has always been musical and begged her to take him to the show to perform his Michael Jackson dance routine.

Of the many Michael Jackson impersonators at the auditions, Tan's rendition with a black T-shirt and black hat received the biggest applause.

A group of handicapped contestants from a center for the disabled in Binh Duong Province moved the judges to tears with their range of talents: solo singing, choir singing and solo organ.

Si Phu, member of the show's organization board, said that he thinks the show will be a great success, if for no other reason than its likeable contestants.

"They all win and represent a truly talented Vietnam," he said.

The show is now filming auditions through November 26 across Vietnam and the finished episodes will be broadcast on VTV3, VTV2 and MTV Vietnam from December 18 through June next year.

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