American Idol Archives

January 16, 2009

American Idol – Soft Opening

The grand opening of the new American Idol attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios is scheduled for February 14th of this year. There will be an official "Grand Opening Celebration" with invited media on February 12th.

In the meantime, Disney is conducting "soft openings." That means they are previewing the show prior to its official opening to work out the bugs and train the cast members. These trial runs are not scheduled in advance and may or may not be performed on a given day. But I was lucky to attend a showing this morning.

American Idol Soft Opening

This is a mini-spoiler alert.

I'm going to describe what I experienced today, so if you want to be completely surprised when you see this show, skip my blog. However, there really aren't any "surprises" to be had here. Three contestants compete and one is chosen.

Please note, I have NEVER seen one episode of American Idol. I'm probably not the best person to review this show, but I'm all we've got at the moment. If you get to be part of a soft opening of American Idol, please let us know! (Send your report to allearsnet at yahoo dot com)

In a sense, the show begins while waiting in line. Two cast members, one with a microphone and one with a camera are out talking with the audience. The crowd is told that one of the contestants today is John Doe (obviously, not his real name). He asks everyone to cheer and chant for John. All the while, the cameraman is filming the crowd's reaction.

A few minutes before the show begins, a video is shown on the overhead monitors.

American Idol Soft Opening

Next we see Ryan Seacrest's smiling face. He welcomes us to the show and gives us some background information.

American Idol Soft Opening

He briefly explains the audition process and several backstage rooms are shown.

American Idol Soft Opening

American Idol Soft Opening

When the video concludes, the doors open and everyone moves into the 1000 seat theater.

I would strongly suggest avoiding the first three rows. Two cameramen are stationed in front of the stage and are continually walking back and forth to capture the best shot. This certainly would block the view for some of the audience.

Here is a picture of the stage and the judge's desk. If you look closely, three Coca Cola glasses are strategically placed before each judge. Also, during the show, bottles of Coke are seen on the monitors. However, at no time was the product name mentioned.

American Idol Soft Opening

American Idol Soft Opening

Here is the picture of one of the chairs. Every other arm rest has two sets of voting buttons built into them. BTW, I've sat in roomier airline seats. These chairs are tight.

American Idol Soft Opening

There are also several overhead monitors. Many of the roaming cameramen's shots are displayed here.

American Idol Soft Opening

Before the show started, a prerecorded announcement said that no video or flash photography was allowed during the show. I was excited since this meant I could take non-flash pictures and share them with you. But then a second announcement was made informing us that this was a "trial" run and NO photography was allowed. Darn.

The show begins with a casually dressed gentleman walking out on stage. He introduces himself and spends the next five minutes warming up the audience. He whoops and hollers and gets everyone to clap their hands over their heads and otherwise acts silly. I've been to dozens of TV tapings in Hollywood and all shows start this way.

Eventually, the host of the show comes out on stage. He introduces himself and tells us we're in for a good time. A few moments later, the three contestants are presented to the audience and each gives their name. They return backstage and the three judges are introduced and we're given their theatrical background.

When contestant number 1 returned to the stage, she was given encouragement via a prerecorded video from a former American Idol winner. That complete, she performed her number.

Before contestant number 2 performed, his actual backstage interview was played for us (and him) to watch. And before contestant number 3 (John Doe) sang, the chanting and cheering that was filmed prior to us entering the theater was shown.

The production is slick. The sound system and lighting are top notch. Behind the singers is a nondescript video backup, adding dimension to the performance. Disney has really tried hard to make this as professional as possible. I certainly did not feel like I was watching amateurs. Although not professionals, the screening process did produce some decent talent.

After each performance, the judges made comments. When I saw the show, the judges consisted of two women and one gentleman. I think the man was supposed to be the "Simon" character from the real show as his remarks were caustic and short. The two women offered real tips and advice.

After all three contestants had finished their numbers, everyone voted for their favorite. A few moments later, an envelope with the winner's name is given to the MC. But of course, he drags out the results for as long as possible.

To draw out the suspense, a video of a former American Idol winner (I don't follow this so I don't know who it was), was shown. Everyone is encouraged to stand up and have a group sing-a-long while clapping our hands. When the number was complete, the winner was finally announced and the performance was over.

The actual show is approximately 30 minutes, but of course, by the time you wait in line, get seated, then exit, you've invested 45-50 minutes. Time-wise, it's comparable to seeing the Indiana Jones or the Lights, Motors, Action stunt shows.

Of course, when you exit the show, there is an American Idol shop just waiting for you.

American Idol Shop

American Idol Shop

American Idol Shop

I think most people will enjoy this show. It's entirely different than anything else offered at Disney World. Also, every performance will be different - different songs and different entertainers. The contestants can choose from over a hundred numbers so a lot of variation is possible. I could have done without the sing-a-long toward the end of the show, but other than that, I had a good time.

Remember, if you get to experience a soft opening of American Idol, please let us know! (Send your report to allearsnet at yahoo dot com)

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About American Idol

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in the American Idol category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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