The great philosopher Cinderella once theorized that, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true. Unfortunately, Cinderella didn’t factor America’s vote into her analysis.
Because no matter how hard they believed, three contestants saw their American Idol dreams come to an end during Sunday’s special Disney-centric episode. (Seriously, though, why did we ever trust a crazy lady who lived in an attic and sewed clothes for “talking” mice and birds? Reality was never her forté.)
Following 10 magical performances, America chose to send home Ada Vox, Michelle Sussett and Dennis Lorenzo. That leaves Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Gabby Barrett, Michael J. Woodard, Cade Foehner, Maddie Poppe, Catie Turner and Jurnee as this season’s Top 7.
Now that we’ve suffered through those three unhappy endings — which the show somehow squeezed into its final two minutes, making goodbyes impossible — let’s break down each of this week’s performances:
MADDIE POPPE (“Bear Necessities” from The Jungle Book)
Poppe effortlessly transformed this simple, plunky classic into a swingin’ jam befitting her ethereal voice. Though her final performance didn’t quite show off her range as much as her rehearsal led us to believe it would, it was thoroughly enjoyable. And that little breakdown at the end was inspired. Baloo is shook.
JURNEE (“How Far I’ll Go” from Moana)
This stripped-down version of one of Disney’s more recent ballads fit Jurnee’s voice like a glove, and it was clear from her swagger that she’s beginning to feel more comfortable on stage. But just as guest mentor Idina Menzel feared, I think Jurnee’s self-doubt — and I suspect a whole mess of emotions triggered by her wife’s recent deployment in the Army — kept this from being a true showstopper. Not that it wasn’t very, very good!
CADE FOEHNER (“Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid)
If Sebastian had crooned this classic in the key of Cade, maybe Prince Eric would have kissed Ariel a lot sooner, avoiding that whole giant Ursula debacle (not that I don’t love me some wedding drama). Foehner’s gravelly interpretation of this iconic number couldn’t have taken it in a more different direction — almost the way you’d expect Bruce Springteen or Bryan Adams to do it. I want to see more of “soft Cade.”
ADA VOX (“Circle of Life” from The Lion King)
I still wish she performed “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” but from the moment Miss Ada stepped onto the stage in a full-on Mufasa wig, I knew I was in for a solid consolation prize. And God bless Menzel for suggesting that Ada tone things down in order to showcase the prettier side of her voice. If Ada didn’t win America over with this killer performance, I’m not sure what it would take. (My only issue with this one: Who in the visuals department decided that the best way to illustrate this song was with a terrifying ball of hellfire?)
MICHELLE SUSSETT (“Remember Me” from Coco)
At this point, if you don’t see Sussett as a dazzling firecracker of a human, you’re willfully ignoring her talent. Not only did she own every inch of that stage tonight, but from the chill-inducing a capella opener to the emotional climax, she demonstrated the versatility that separates “singers” from “artists.” Don’t @ me, but when Sussett is firing on all cylinders, I feel like I’m watching the second coming of Selena.
GABBY BARRETT (“Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas)
Barrett rebounded from a rocky start, ultimately delivering a solid performance of this eco-friendly ballad. Despite all her talent, though, I still feel like she could do a better job of actually connecting to her songs; it’s the same way I felt about her take on “The Climb” — vocally excellent, but emotionally distant. Luke Bryan was right when he said that Barrett has “all the tools” needed to win this competition, but I’d like to borrow a line from Elle Woods and encourage Barrett to “read the manual.” (I promise that made sense in my head.)
MICHAEL J. WOODARD (“Beauty and the Beast” from Beauty and the Beast)
Woodard deserved a standing ovation for that jacket alone, never mind the fact that he absolutely crushed the performance. The word “angel” gets thrown around a lot when we talk about this guy, but I swear I could feel the light emanating from him tonight. When he broke into that triumphant belt, we were all Katy Perry, mouth agape. Man, I really hope Peabo Bryson was watching this.
CALEB LEE HUTCHINSON (“You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story)
This was the performance I was least excited about (purely because of the zzzzz factor) and after all was said and done, I was right to curb my enthusiasm. Sure, Hutchinson was technically flawless, nailing every boring note in that entire boring song — but it was about as exciting a performance as you’d expect from a 19-year-old singing to his dog. (I want to clarify that I’m a fan of Hutchinson as a person. He’s a fun, likable guy. I just wish he’d invite some of that personality to join him on stage.)
CATIE TURNER (“Once Upon a Dream” from Sleeping Beauty)
Several TVLine readers hypothesized that Turner’s take on this classic would veer in the direction of Lana Del Rey’s cover for the movie Maleficent, but no. She fully embraced old-school Disney, flowing pink dress and all, presenting another side to her that I didn’t think existed. Perry was correct in saying that this performance took Turner to the next level.
DENNIS LORENZO (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King)
No, you’re crying! Seriously, if Lorenzo’s reunion with his daughter wasn’t enough to press all of your emotional buttons, his smooth take on this Elton John-penned love ballad surely finished the job. There’s been so much talk this season about contestants “connecting” to the music, and few do it as well as Lorenzo. It was the perfect way to end Disney Night.
Which of tonight’s eliminations surprised you the most? Vote for your favorite performance below, then drop a comment with your take on Disney Night.