Update your insurance policy, make out your will, it’s Hollywood Week on American Idol and it’s gonna get dangerous. Or so the show has been teasing us since last week with video of some contestant plummeting off the stage.
“This will be the most intense Hollywood Week ever,” explains show host Ryan Seacrest as we see our first shot of the chick who fell off the stage.
“Tonight we raise the stakes,” Ryan says ominously. He also makes some mention of “unstoppable drama” as we see our first shot of the paramedics who rushed to the scene when the chick fell from the stage.
And here’s our first look at the gurney brought by the paramedics who rushed to the scene when the chick took a dive.
“This…..is ‘American Idol’!” says Ryan.
Oh, and though we’re not recommending taking your eye off the screen – what with the danger of falling bodies and all -- know that “Idol” executive producer Nigel Lythgoe will be live-tweeting the event. Multi-task if you dare!
Arrivals time. The judges in their [Car Sponsor] SUVs, the home-made tapes of contestants all around the country waking up, getting on planes, and expressing their awe as they arrive in Hollywood-- or, anyway, the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.
Our favorite: “It doesn’t seem real right now”, says the auditioner who was living in a tent with her boyfriend in some backwoods, as she sits on a hotel bed. She’s got her hot shower so she’s a winner already.
“Idol” judge Steven Tyler addresses the auditorium of hopefuls with inspirational words from The Cowardly Lion:
“What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage!… What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got? Courage!
Ryan is practicing his hushed golf-announcer voice, telling us that the auditioners will sing a cappella and get no feedback from the far-off judges table and “half of them will go home today.”
First up, the singer the producers have plainly picked to be a star Johnny Keyser, the waiter from Florida. Only thing that will stop his forward march is a stage plummet. No, he’s poised and not bad-ish, though hammy.
Poor Heejun Han, 22, has to follow him. “The person before me is the guy Jennifer fell in love with!” moans Han of Keyser and judge Jennifer Lopez. “Everyone is so tall. So pretty. Even the guys are so pretty,” Han complains. “I have to figure out how to overcome the beauty,” he says. He sings an okay version of Michael Bolton’s “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You.” But what do the judges think? “No one ever thinks Heejun is going to sound good and he does!” No, wait -- that was Nigel tweeting.
Heejun and Johnny are in.
Let’s run some ladies through. Elise Testone (occupation: vocal coach - is that fair?), 28, and Baylie Brown, 27, nervous but pretty, are in. Hallie Day, 24, the waitress from Baltimore, is good and loud on “Natural Woman.” “It was an easy yes for all three women,” says Ryan, who’s got his voice back.
Jen Hirsh, 25, from California, is so good and bluesy on Patty Griffin’s “Up to the Mountain” that the judges stop her. Lauren Gray, 27, from St. Louis, sings with her eyes closed and misses Randy’s hand signals that she’s so good she should stop. But a bunch of screechy women fail, including one who begs to be able to deliver one more note, then delivers three -- but it’s not enough.
It’s an “Idol” tradition for Hollywood Week invitees to go “Aw shucks,” and marvel about comin’ to the big city, but best one we’ve heard in a while comes from Phillip Phillips, 27, from Leesburg, GA. Phillip says this will be only his second plane ride -- and his first landing, because he jumped out the first time. He performs a folkie “Poppa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and it’s just odd.
Turns out there’s a song called “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” from ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” which we’d totally forgotten. It’s delivered jazzed up and tuneless, but with a great sense of Putting On A Show, by Reed Grimm, 26, from Wisconsin, who says he’s been on the stage since he was two.
Heartbreak Alert: Travis Orlando, the hard luck 18-year-old from the Bronx who’s back for his second Hollywood Week, gives an okay performance of “All I Do,” by Stevie Wonder. He’s certainly more listenable – is that a word? -- than Reed Grimm, but he doesn’t make it. “I have to go back to nothing. Nothing at all,” Travis weeps to the camera after he’s cut. “I so disagreed with the judges letting Travis go,” Nigel tweets. “It was so upsetting.” So you’re giving him work now, Nigel? No? Didn’t think so.
Phillip and Reed are through, strangely enough.
By the end of Day One, 68 people have “departed” Ryan says euphemistically. But “Coming up: the daughter of a Living Legend gets her moment in the spotlight!”
First, a jolly, dumpy guy named Adam Brock, 27, from Washington, PA. “I’ve been told there’s a large black woman trapped inside my body,” he says.
Adam will sing “Walking in Memphis” because, he says, JLo asked him to at auditions, though she doesn’t appear to remember. He blows it away in a few bars. “Beautiful, baby,” says JLo.
Next up, daughter of Living Legend — which, turns out, is just “American Idol”-speak for “once-red-hot-comic-actor” Jim Carrey. Jane Carrey, 24, a waitress, is surprisingly mediocre after we see some tape of Jane explaining how hard it is to the the child of a Living Legend. Of course, one way would be to avoid show business. But hey, she seems like a nice person, and our heart goes out to her for being Jim Carrey’s daughter. Anyway, Adam yes, Jane no.
“So it’s goodbye to Jane. She really was a good spirit. I just love that baby.”
That’s Nigel tweeting again.
Ryan has some bad news to deliver: “One simple miss-step will cost someone everything,” as we see the singer plummet — again.
This is followed by a mash-up of failed Hollywood Week singers begging. “I can sing my butt off” one promises. Anyway, they did not fall off the stage.
Seventeen-year-old David Leathers, Jr., from Fayetteville, NC, is a lady killer though most of the ladies tower over him. We see him working the room, giving back massages, making time. He’s got a choir boys voice on Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” so you gotta hope it doesn’t break during the next few months. The judges look wowed. “Wow, you saw it here,” says Tyler after Leathers’ performance.
He’s a go, and so is Shannon Magrane, the very tall 16-year-old daughter of ex-Cardinal pitcher Joe Magrane, who memorably appeared at Shannon’s audition and even more memorably refrained from smacking Tyler after the Aerosmith frontman referred to Shannon as “hot and humid” like the weather in Boston.
Jessica Phillips, 26, from Brooklyn, NY, has it all -- talent and back story. She’s the one with the fiance who’s a stroke victim. He’s come to Hollywood – aka Pasadena – to make it just perfect that she’s picked Whitney Houston’s “All the Man That I Need” for her Hollywood Week solo number. So Jessica sails through.
Erica van Pelt, 26, from Rhode Island, is strong on Pink’s “Glitter.” Creighton Fraker, 28, from New York, takes on Queen’s “Somebody to Love” as a slow ballad, which is okay if you like that sort of thing. Music Teacher Aaron Marcellus, 27, from Atlanta just does a little riffing, which is good enough to get him a pass.
Wait a minute. We just glanced at the clock and — just four minutes left in the show and no stage plummet yet.
Will it be Lauren Mink, 25 from Kentucky, the director of a program for adults with disabilities? Nope, though she does suffer an unintended key change, as JLo notes in a stage whisper.
It’s also not Jeremy Rosado, a 19–year-old receptionist from an infectious disease doctor office in Florida. He sings “Superstar,” in a way that’s totally overbearing — though not for JLo. “Goooooooosies!” she says, indicating her goose pimples.
It’s Symone Black, 16, from Rancho Cucamonga, CA! Symone has come with her stage dad, and performs “Sittin’ On The Dock of A Bay.” She’s cute, she’s talented. Judge Randy Jackson asks her why she picked that song. “Um, I want to reach out to an older audience,” Symone says. “Are you saying we’re older?” Randy jokes. And off the stage tumbles Symone.
We see her lying on the floor. Her father rushes down. “Medic, please!” Nigel shouts.
Meanwhile the show credits are rolling.
“Tomorrow night, find out what happens to Symone,” Ryan intones.
And on Twitter, Nigel is exulting. “I know you’re all going crazy. You’ll have to wait till tomorrow. That’s why I’m a mean producer,” he tweets.
“It’s not a ‘cliffhanger’,”he adds.
“She didn’t hang, she fell”.
Last Thursday: Auditions wrap up in St. Louis
Last Wednesday: Auditions go to Portland
Interactive: “American Idol’s” decade of hits and myths