This is part II of Stephanie’s American Idol experience last week. Click here for part I. Thanks so much for the fun article, Steph. Read on…
Five … four … three … two … one … here we go. Ryan Seacrest is talking into a camera (not facing us) and introduces the judges. Next to our row, down the stairs comes Steven, Jennifer, and Randy. And yes ladies, she looks as gorgeous in person as on television. They were as close to us as the bananas are to the cabbage at the Snoqualmie Ridge IGA. I could not stop staring at Randy’s white shoes.
I also could not stop staring at Jimmy (the contestants’ mentor this season and my favorite part of the show) and Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe. They sat together in section A. After each contestant sang, I watched Jimmy to see his reaction. Once he yawned, and then I followed and decided I better not look his direction anymore.
When the songs began they sounded different than on TV. It was loud, as in ten times as loud. With the hot lights on us, the production crew running around, Ryan on stage in the background, Jimmy, Nigel, the judges, many former contestants in the audience, Jared resting his arms on the stage — I was watching all these other things. The activity made it hard to focus on the singing.
Commercial Breaks — the Frenzy
Breaking to our first commercial was an eye-opener. At this point it was clear that Ryan was very sick. Debbie (the show’s stage manager) told us this as she placed an ice-pack behind his neck. Everyone on stage was running, moving things around. The judges were swamped with make-up artists and people twirling their hair strands to make each one lie perfectly. This happened at every commercial break — more make-up, more hair twirling, more hairspray. Nigel was at the judge’s desk at each commercial break, if only I could lip read. He talked to them intensely and I wondered if he was suggesting things to say.
Commercial over, three … two … one … on air again. Viewers have no idea all that just happened in those few minutes. I was stunned. We clapped upon the re-entry to TV land and prepared for the next contestant. Now note, the contestants’ parents you see are constantly changing seats throughout the show. There is one row for parents (in front of us) and when their child sings they are brought down to that row. When the song is over, they’re escorted back up the stairs and another set of parents are brought down. During the two hours there was so much audience movement that it felt like musical chairs, but On-Air there is never an empty seat. If you were one of the unlucky ones in line that didn’t get a ticket, you may have been asked to be a “seat filler.” Seat fillers sit outside the studio and when a seat needs a person; you’re asked to fill it. If that person returns from say the restroom, you are then taken back outside. Not a fun job I imagine.
The contestants sang, Ryan hung on throughout the show and we were well entertained during commercials. Blake Lewis was in the audience and did some beat boxing for us. Ryan’s girlfriend Julianne Hough and J Lo’s boyfriend spent time being chatty with the judges.
I don’t know how it came across on TV but Phillip’s song The Stone sounded amazing (my favorite of the night), as did Jessica’s Dance With My Father. Both of Skylar’s songs felt as though we were at a true concert and Hollie’s beautiful rendition of The Climb left us wordless.
After an hour, I couldn’t look at Jimmy anymore as he had left and been replaced by a seat-filler. If you were hot, thirsty or needed to use a restroom, you couldn’t leave because producers had to ensure all seats were filled when the commercials ended.
Special Guest Singer
Toward the end of the show we were informed that Katy Perry was scheduled to sing on Thursday’s show , but due to a schedule change she needed to tape her song on our night. Oh bummer! You mean we need/get to stay longer and watch Katy Perry sing? It’s like Christmas present after Christmas present.
Katy sang one song, three times. The first was a rehearsal where they told us not to clap – that felt weird. The next one was taped, but in the initial few seconds one of her dancers fell from a rope intended to look like she was descending from a helicopter. It didn’t look good. In fact it was slightly scary. They decided to do a second taping. Katy joked with the audience about how hungry we probably were and thanked us for “sticking around.” She must have been ailing from what Ryan had because her assistants sprayed Cepacol in her throat between coughs.
Well into the third hour, Jay Flatts had to intervene to keep us clapping. You’d think that would be so easy until you clap so much that you’re really sick of it.
Before Katy left the stage she said hi to Jared and thanked everyone again. Regardless of how it sounded on TV, it was amazing live and she’s quite adorable.
The Wednesday show was wrapped up. Goodbye J Lo, goodbye Randy and Steven. Bye-bye Ryan. So fun to see you. Great job singers. We exited the studio and had sushi on our minds so started heading that direction on foot. Alone, and closer to The Grove we saw two women with “Team Hollie” on their pink jackets. I asked if they were family members of Hollie’s and indeed her mum (with Hollie’s same accent) indicated who she was, motioning to her phone that she was calling Hollie right then. We told her how much we adore Hollie and wished the judges didn’t give her such a hard time. Imagine your young daughter receiving such harsh critique — it must be difficult. I felt sympathetic towards them and saw things in a way I hadn’t before. These aren’t the Hunger Games; they are young people doing their best and doing what they love. I can’t cheer for one, because I like them all – now more than ever.
From standing on Beverly Blvd, to the stage of American Idol, I learned that the audience is as much of the show as are the contestants and judges. That the producer, Nigel, is as much of a decision maker as is Jimmy. And that the contestants are just kids with parents that dearly love them and have regular lives like we do. For your own line vouchers to future shows, click http://on-camera-audiences.com/shows/American_Idol. You never know what may happen.