By MIKE CHAIKEN
An interest in entertainment and a casual conversation with mom and dad laid the groundwork for a big victory for a then 12-year-old girl from Oklahoma City, Okla.
Darci Lynne, now 13, was the big winner for the recent season of “America’s Got Talent.”
The then-12 year old wowed the judges week after week with a ventriloquist act that had her puppets singing to classic pop songs, including a puppet duet of The Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
Darci is now hitting the road and arrives at Connecticut’s Foxwoods Resort Casino on Jan. 20.
“I had always watched the show (‘America’s Got Talent),” said Darci in a telephone interview from her home in Oklahoma City. And she had dreamed of competing on it.
“I went up to my parents and said, ‘I want to do it,’” said Darci. Her parents replied, “Are you sure?” And Darci said she said, “Yep.”
“So we did it.”
Prior to “America’s Got Talent,” Darci said she was no stranger to taking her puppets to the stage. She had been performing her ventriloquism act on other stages. But the television audience—in the studio and across the globe—was by far her biggest venue.
Prior to taking the stage on “America’s Got Talent” for the first time, Darci said, “My mind was going a mile a minute… I was more nervous than any time in my entire life… I almost puked.”
But, she said, she knew she would go out on the stage and she would try to do her very best.
When she took the stage, a clip of the performance on Youtube.com shows, Darci was all smiles as she had her puppet sing a soaring version of George Gershwin’s “Summertime.”
All four “America’s Got Talent” judges—Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Simon Cowell, and Mel B—grinned from ear to ear as they watched and listened to the smiling Darci, who didn’t look at all nervous.
As the final note sounded, Mel B didn’t wait more than beat before she hit the buzzer, automatically sending Darci to the quarter finals.
When the golden buzzer was hit, gold confetti rained down from the sky on Darci.
“I don’t think I was thinking straight,” said Darci, recalling those immediate moments after the golden buzzer on the show was sounded. “I didn’t know what was going on… It was kind of crazy, surreal. I did not expect it.”
Darci experienced her first ventriloquist performance—as an audience member—when she was 5. In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, she said she thought it was a bunch of trickery, figuring the puppet was wired with speakers and someone was talking for it off-stage. She was amazed to learn it was the ventriloquist throwing his own voice.
Several years later, however, Darci began making moves to be a ventriloquist herself.
Darci said she used to compete in pageants because her mother thought it would help with her shyness. At one of the pageants, she met another contestant who did ventriloquism. Both girls won the pageant— so they got to work together over the next year, traveling and performing.
“I loved her,” said Darci of her fellow pageant queen. “I was obsessed with what she did (as a ventriloquist).” So, Darci said she asked her friend to show her how she did it.
From there, said Darci, she just practiced in the mirror till she knew what she was doing. Eventually, she asked her mom for a ventriloquist puppet.
Initially, Darci said her parents said no. They told her, “You have enough on your plate.” Darci already was taking dance lessons, singing, and competing in pageants, she said.
“I was persistent,” said Darci. “I didn’t let it go.”
Then one day, she said, her parents surprised her with puppet they bought on Ebay.
Many ventriloquists will focus their acts on dialogue with their puppets. Darci’s singing through the puppets was a unique wrinkle.
Darci said before she picked up the puppets, she already was singing. When she competed in pageants, she said, vocals was her talent of choice.
And when she thought of ways to make her talent unique, Darci said she decided to combine the two talents.
When she chooses her music, said Darci, she doesn’t choose it because it’s easier to perform through the puppets and as a ventriloquist. “I pick what fits my puppet’s personality,” said Darci, who has a whole cast of puppets to her collection. That said, she said, “My mom helps me pick out sings. And she comes up with great songs.”
When she takes the stage at Foxwoods’ Grand Theater, it will be Darci’s first trip to Connecticut. And she said she was looking forward to it. She was excited especially to see the snow that covers the New England landscape.
When she takes the stage, she said, audiences can expect a whole night of her puppets and singing. All of her puppets sing different genres so people will hear yodeling, opera, Broadway, Motown, jazz, and more. They’ll also see some great dancing, she said.
“It’s great night for the entire family,” said Darci
Now that she has won “America’s Got Talent,” Darci said she doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as the “puppet girl.” She has an eye on a career that will allow her to tour with her puppets, record some music, and do some television and movies.
“I want to do it all,” said Darci.
Beyond the Foxwoods gig, Darci said she is touring two weekends out of the month through May.
Darci Lynne and Friends comes to the Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket for two shows—3 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 20. Tickets are $27, $44, and $59.
For more information, go to Foxwoods.com or DarciLynne.com