A Backstage peek at American Idol Experience

| January 17, 2009

I was lucky enough to get a backstage preview of the American Idol attraction yesterday at Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World.  A great DIS’er allowed me to tag along with him as he went through the experience.

David auditioned in the morning and made it through to the 4 PM performance. He sang “Walking in Memphis” to the cast member making the selections. He met with a producer of the show and was told to return around 2:50 PM to get ready for the show.

I met him outside of the American Idol attraction and we were walked into the “green room.”  This is the room where the performers wait to visit hair and makeup, and the vocal coach before hitting the stage.  There was a table that had several iPods (which had over 100 songs) and headphones for the American Idol performers to practice their songs.  David mentioned there was only one possible key for each song which would limit your choices.  You could choose between listening with the lyrics or without them. It got loud for awhile when one of the performers was practicing.

Pretty soon it was David’s turn in the makeup chair.  The American Idol cast members stressed they were going to put on a lot of makeup since they use high definition cameras onstage.  The performers are told they will have 10 minutes in each room and they really keep to that! All too quickly his time in the makeup chair was over.  I thought his makeup looked great and it wasn’t heavy at all.  David headed next to the vocal coach and that’s where I let him have alone time.  The American Idol coach offered some suggestions on how he could improve when he was onstage. The other two performers were waiting when we came out.

The Cast member escorted us out onto the stage and you really start to feel like you are in Hollywood waiting for your performer’s debut.  The American Idol stage manager instructed the 3 of them where they would be standing and what would happen once the show started.  They were fitted with an auto pilot device that would allow the lights to follow them on stage. They all got the chance to practice singing on stage.  As they look into the audience there is a monitor with the words to their song in case they can’t remember the lyrics.

I was lucky enough to sit down front and watch the performances.  Before we knew it they were letting the audience in.  They did have a big crowd, which they said was over 500 people.

They have a cast member come out and warm up the audience.  He was also talking with them in the pre show area but I didn’t see that since I was backstage.  He was pretty funny and had the audience on their feet doing different things.

Finally they started the show.  They introduced the host and they had Ryan Seacrest talk about American Idol. Then they pointed out where the families of the performers were sitting and talked with them a little bit.

It was now time for David to perform.  I thought he was great and he didn’t seem nervous at all.  I don’t have pictures from the performance since you aren’t allowed to take video or pictures. All too quickly he was done.  It was time for the judge’s opinions.  During the rehearsal they encouraged you to be lively, to ham it up on stage. When David did that they commented he was moving around too much, and I wonder if they do that so they have something to comment on. They had two women and a man that seemed very knowledgeable and had their own personalities.  The gentleman was like Simon and he seemed to be very gruff.

The next two performers had short little videos about themselves shown before they performed. Before David sang they asked him who his favorite American Idol was from last year and then they showed a little video from David Cook.

The other two performers were a couple so they joked about how they would handle it if one of them should win.  Personally, I thought David was the best but the audience didn’t agree with me.  The lady performing from England won.  She had a video that played before she sang where the audience was chanting her name outside.  I wonder if that played a part in her winning?  Since this was in soft preview she didn’t get the Dream ticket to go to the head of the line at an American Idol audition. All the ticket gets you is a guaranteed audition. It doesn’t mean you will be in Hollywood meeting Randy, Paula, Simon for an audition.

My feelings have changed about the show since I saw it during the annual passholder previews.  Maybe this show can draw a crowd.  It is like I expected that this would take a very large chunk out of your day if you are here on vacation.  You audition in the morning and then you are told what show to be back for later in the day.  If you win that show then you are expected back for the 7 PM show where the final winner is determined.  I still wonder if they are going to get enough performers?  You can sign up on the web for limited audition times.

I am signed up for an annual passolder preview in February before the American Idol attraction at Walt Disney World officially opens.  I think I will have to visit several more times before I decide if this is a keeper for Hollywood Studios.  There was a lot I liked about it and noticed room for improvement in a few areas, but I guess only time will tell. Thanks again David for inviting me to share your day in the spotlight. Stay tuned!

David shared his thoughts with me this morning, “Leah and I decided the American Idol attraction is going to have a tough time finding its identity….is it (1) a real competition for serious singers or (2) a fun place to “ham” it up for a live audience.  I think it would be tough to be both.”

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  • disneyholic family

    it sounds like a lot of fun for the performer, i’m not so sure about the audience (unless you’re related to the performer)…but maybe…

    after hearing explanations from several different people (including the WDW PR person) i still don’t understand what exactly the ‘dream ticket’ gets you – a guaranteed audition in front of the 3 american idol judges? a guaranteed audition in front of the american idol producer? or simply a guaranteed audition at one of the audition sites – which simply means you’ll be down on the floor of the stadium in front of one of the 12 lackeys who audition 12 people simultaneously….
    considering we’re talking about 365 winners annually, i’m still not sure which of the above 3 it is…

  • DavidandLeahZ

    To answer your question about the “dream ticket”:

    Once the attraction officially opens and they start awarding this ticket (during previews cast members are allowed to audition b/c they need performers) it will be awarded to one person each day who wins the finale show at the end of the night.

    If you receive the ticket – you’ll be moved to thr front of the line at any Idol audition across the country. But – as you mentioned – it will not be in front of the big 3 (now 4) judges – it will be for the first round of preliminary judges. It basically guarantees an audition.

  • disneyholic family

    thanks for the explanation…
    that’s not much of a guarantee then…
    the way american idol works, the first audition is down on the floor of the stadium..
    there are appproximately 12 tables set up one next to the other, with 2 or 3 very low level producers at each table…
    12 people audition simultaneously..
    that is, one person in front of each table in the middle of a stadium filled with 20,000 people..
    all 12 sing at the same time….so picture that you are only about 4 feet away from the people on either side of you and there are 12 of you all together, all of you singing your little song…
    some of the people who sing at the same time as you are screaming or totally out of key, while you sing and the lackey at the table listens to you….
    of the 12 tables, one of them has the “real” producer…..typically the only “real” contestants go forward from that table…
    the other tables only send forward those who are being set up to be made fun of…
    in any case, if you make it by the 12 tables, you then go to an audition in front of a “real” producer….this is the guy who decides who’s really participating, and in what capacity (actually going on, or just to be made fun of)..
    of course, the contestants don’t know that they’re being picked to be made fun of..
    only after running the gauntlet of 3 auditions, do you then make it in front of the tv judges, who supposedly pick who will continue and make fun of the others…
    but all of this is scripted in advance….it is the producer who decides who will go forward and who will be the comic relief…
    and the producer scripts what the tv judges say….he tells them what they’re supposed to say and how to react…
    anyway…i could go on..
    but i understand from what you’re saying that the guarantee is just to be one of the people who auditions in front of the 12 tables…..the very first and very unimportant audition..
    although, i’m sure there will be instructions from the producer to bring forward at least one WDW winner…possibly to be made fun of, or possibly to advance to the finals….
    it could be a deal between disney and idol that one singer will advance..
    possibly a ringer singer..

    it’s all fraud – but hey – it’s show business people..you’re foolish if you expect any of it to be real…

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  • heidev

    I entered the contest yesterday and won. I have in my hand the golden ticket. I am past the age limit so I will be sending out further info for someone who can get a chance to win this ticket from me. I will be asking for anyone who is interested to send me in 500 words or less why you think you deserve this shot..
    This ticket is for real and will not cost you a cent. I will be looking for top talent and wondering who will win this ticket for a shot at the real American Idol. Since I can’t make this dream come true for myself I want to give someone else a chance..
    please contact me if interested. I have a page on you tube.. under Heide voglis.
    hope to hear from you soon….

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  • dancinggirl4119@aol.com

    First of all congrats on winning. Second im not gonna sit here and write a 500 word letter to you why i should be able to have that ticket. I too tried out got in and when it was time for eliminations a lady over 40 years old won and she got the ticket which isnt fair because i could have gotten it but she cant even use it. Im not saying when youre that age you shouldnt be able to do it but if they win the runner up should get the ticket because they are in the age range. I love to sing and perform it is my dream and not winning really upset me but all i want is to audition for the real american idol and that ticket would really help me.


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