Judge Simon Cowell opened the “America’s Got Talent” two-night finale show on Tuesday by saying of the Top 10 performers: “Every one of these acts in their own way has been an inspiration.”
That is definitely true of the two Raleigh natives among the finalists.
11-year-old Tyler Butler-Figueroa is a cancer survivor who took up the violin because he was being bullied and teased in school. Sgt. Major Christal Sanders Rheams is an active duty member of the U.S. Army who sings with the group Voices of Service to bring comfort to veterans with PTSD.
Both acts gave stirring performances Tuesday night, and were then left to wait for viewers to vote.
The winner of NBC’s singing competition series, now in its 14th season, will be announced on Wednesday night’s results show. There are 10 finalists in contention for the $1 million prize.
Here’s what happened with the Raleigh contestants on Tuesday night’s show.
Voices of Service
Voices of Service was the first of our two Raleigh talents on stage, and the quartet’s performance was preceded by a video of the members of the group — Rheams, Master Sergeant Caleb Green, retired Staff Sergeant Ron Henry and Sergeant First Class Jason L. Hannah — reading letters from soldiers and veterans who have been inspired by their work.
Rheams wept as she read the words.
Then the group delivered a goosebump-inducing rendition of the Leona Lewis song “Footprints in the Sand.”
“You are changing lives,” judge Howie Mandel told them after the song. “And if you look at that video, those are the people you’re moving, and it’s so wonderful and so powerful. Congratulations. I hope America votes.”
Judge Gabrielle Union called the group “brilliant, absolutely brilliant” and praised Rheams for taking the time during last week’s show to embrace young singer Luke Islam, who was eliminated when Voices of Service advanced.
Judge Simon Cowell told them: “You define the words ‘sincerity,’ ‘decency’ and ‘talent.’ And you know what, I wouldn’t have said this three weeks ago, but you’ve just given yourself a chance at winning this whole competition.”
When host Terry Crews asked the group how they feel when they get letters from servicemen and servicewomen who have been inspired by them, Rheams answered: “It just makes us feel glorious because it lets us know that we’re spreading the message that we want to spread and we’re giving hope to some folks who may not have hope.”
Rheams has been a member of the US Army Band since 1998. She graduated from Enloe High School in Raleigh, attended UNC-Chapel Hill and has performed in many theater productions.
Just before Tyler’s performance, a video showed him sitting outdoors at night with his mom, Kisua Butler-Figueroa, and his little brother, Adam, and they watched as messages from children cancer survivors and patients played on a large screen.
One little girl said she is taking piano lessons because of him. A young boy said, “I’m proud that you’re representing kids with cancer, like me.”
As the video ended, Tyler’s mother hugged her boys tight and a single tear rolled down Tyler’s cheek.
Tyler was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was four-and-a-half-years-old. He underwent three years of chemotherapy and recently celebrated four years being cancer-free.
Then Tyler was on stage playing Destiny Child’s “Survivor.” (For what it’s worth, it was the first time all season that the background music didn’t drown out his playing.)
Judge Simon Cowell, who gave Tyler a Golden Buzzer pass early in the season, seemed thrilled with the performance.
“I am bursting with pride for you right now,” Cowell said. “And that film just says way more than I could ever say about the impact you have had.”
Simon then told Tyler that Beyonce personally cleared the Destiny’s Child song for him to perform.
Judge Gabrielle Union added: “That was the best performance, you saved the best for last. You were absolutely incredible, and the fact that ‘Queen Bee’ Beyonce blessed you — Tyler you did it kid, you really did it.”
Other acts in the Top Ten are singer Kodi Lee, dance group Light Balance Kids, acrobatic dance group V. Unbeatable, the Detroit Youth Choir, comedian Ryan Niemiller, Ndlovu Youth Choir, 10-year-old opera singer Emanne Beasha and singer Benicio Bryant.
How to vote
There are three ways to vote: online at the NBC website, through the AGT mobile app and through the X-Finity set-top box.
The AGT app: The free app works on Apple iOS and Android devices, but you’ll need to create an NBCUniversal profile (if you don’t already have one) using your Facebook or Google credentials, or with an email address.
Online: You can also vote directly from the “America’s Got Talent” page on the NBC website at nbc.com/AGTVote.
As with the app, you’ll need to register with NBCUniversal (but you only need to register once — your credentials should work for both platforms). You can also sign in using Facebook or Google credentials.
X-Finity: There’s a third way to vote, but you have to have an X-Finity X1 set-top box, X-Finity remote and an active X-Finity subscription that includes NBC.
The voting window is open from 8 p.m. Tuesday until 7 a.m. Wednesday (ET). The exception is for X-Finity voters — they can vote between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Tuesday.
You can see the full rules at NBC.com.