'American Idol' makes the cut, leaving 24 singers to vie for prize

Associated Press Writer NEW YORK (AP) - No more audition silliness. It's time to get serious on "American Idol."

The Fox talent show trimmed down the competition Wednesday night, leaving 24 semifinalists - 12 men and 12 women - to vie for the "Idol" title and a record contract.

The decision-making finale will be held in May.

"Idol" hopeful Marisa Rhodes broke down in the elevator after she was told she wasn't going through to the next round, saying "I don't get it." "I wasn't expecting this at all - and nobody was," Rhodes said later.

Things were better for curly-haired jokester Chris Sligh, who succeeded in winning over Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul even though he wasn't one of the strongest singers.

Cowell even praised his "great personality."

Next Tuesday, the top 12 male singers are in the hot seat, and, on Wednesday, the women follow.

The men are - drumroll, please - Sligh, 28, Greenville, S.C.; Sanjaya Malakar, 17, Federal Way, Wash.; Brandon Rogers, 29, Los Angeles; Philip Stacy, 29, Jacksonville, Fla.; Blake Lewis, 25, Bothell, Wash.; Rudy Cardenas, 28, Los Angeles; Paul Kim, 25, Saratoga, Calif.; A.J. Tabaldo, 22, Santa Maria, Calif.; Nicholas Pedro, 25, Taunton, Mass.; Chris Richardson, 22, Chesapeake, Va.; Jared Cotter, 25, West Orange, N.J., and Jason "Sundance" Head, 28, Porter, Texas. And the ladies: Melinda Doolittle, 29, Brentwood, Tenn.; Gina Glocksen, 22, Naperville, Ill.; Haley Scarnato, 24, San Antonio, Texas; Jordin Sparks, 17, Glendale, Ariz.; Stephanie Edwards, 19, Savannah, Ga.; Leslie Hunt, 24, Chicago; Alaina Alexander, 24, West Hollywood, Calif.; Sabrina Sloan, 27, Los Angeles; Lakisha Jones, 27, Flint, Mich.; Nicole Tranquillo, 20, Philadelphia; Amy Krebs, 22, Federal Way, Wash., and Antonella Barba, 20, Point Pleasant, N.J. ---

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) AP-NY-02-15-07 0241EST