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What does it take to melt the hard interior of reality show judge Simon Cowell? Apparently, a softer exterior. An exterior like the one that perches on the hand of “America’s Got Talent” contestant ventriloquist Darci Lynne: her puppet Edna Doorknocker.

Most of us first got to know the record producer and professional reality show judge during his tenure on “American Idol.” Known prominently for a somewhat aggressive persona and harsh, impatient tone with the contestants, we also witnessed him turn into virtual goo with artists like Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler and Lauren Alaina.

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But there’s a new sheriff in town and Darci, whose remarkable voice is transitioned through a trunkful of felt-faced characters, has charmed the daylights out of Simon. But perhaps never before like she did through Edna.

Darci and the geriatric dummy just competed in the semifinals of this season’s competition where, at the urging of her sweet Darci, Edna confessed to an undeniable crush on Simon. Then, as the petite puppeteer has done in the past, she made her charge come fully to life through song.

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OK, it’s one thing to just talk or even sing as a ventriloquist, but Darci … or is it Edna … absolutely WAILS when she sings Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” At the beginning of the performance, Simon plays the bashful prey, but when Edna (and Darci) hit that glory note, even he can’t conceal his awe.

Week two of semifinals takes place September 12 and 13, and then the final round begins. Best of luck to Darci and all of the great contestants.

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