Two Eastern Iowans have won a golden ticket to the Hollywood rounds of “American Idol” season 12.
Gabe Brown of Marion and Alisabeth Von Presley of Cedar Rapids wowed the celebrity judges in Chicago, after catching producers’ eyes and ears last August during “Idol’s” Small Town Bus Tour stop in Iowa City.
Both were invited to the Adler Planetarium to join hundreds of other hopefuls auditioning for celebrity judges Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban.
The hit Fox television talent show has launched superstar careers for past winners and finalists Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daughtry. Competition is open to singers ages 15 to 28.
Brown and Von Presley are among 46 Windy City auditioners who advanced to the Hollywood rounds, which will air later this winter.
Viewers got to see Brown’s wild Chicago audition Thursday night, but not Von Presley’s. Both are well-known in local circles. Brown is lead singer for the power rock band, Helforsout, which has been making the scene since August 2011. Von Presley is a regular on the Theatre Cedar Rapids stage, belting out an unforgettable star turn as Maureen in “Rent” in 2010, among other leading roles.
Brown’s band covers everything from AC/DC and Led Zeppelin to Foo Fighters and Soundgarden, so it’s no wonder he blew the judges away with a full-out a cappella rock blast of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” Urban shouted out, “I love it. You’re deafening at that volume.”
Carey wanted to hear something “a little more mellow,” so Brown then launched into “We All Die Young,” but couldn’t resist cranking up the rock power with that one, too. Minaj declared, “I like you Curly,” referring to Brown’s untamed hair. Jackson said he liked it, too, especially since they hadn’t heard a real rocker up to that point.
“When you’re doing your rock thing, I believe you,” Minaj added.
“Guys who have big, massive belting voices have big hearts, too,” Urban said, right before the panel gave Brown a resounding round of yes votes.
Brown then ran screaming through the Planetarium auditorium, waving his golden ticket.
True to her theatrical roots, Von Presley sang “I See a River” from the musical “Urinetown,” along with Otis Redding’s R&B classic, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” Let’s hope America gets to hear her sing in the Hollywood rounds.
“American Idol” airs at 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays on the Fox channel.
Here are Brown’s and Von Presley’s “going to Hollywood” tapes: