Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Florida: I Want To Go Back Already (Part III)

And now, for Part III: The American Idol Experience.

Like I said, I heard about this opening last year, and was pretty impressed that they managed to get every single American Idol winner (and many of the other contestants) to attend the grand opening.  I heard reports and understood it was a pretty neat show, so when we made our vacation plans, I decided to go for it.  Now, my history with auditioning for American Idol is pretty disappointing, but since there were no extended episodes of auditions, and as such, no trainwreck singers let through merely for the sake of ratings, I thought it might be fun to give it a try.  Of course, I tried to have zero expectations at getting through, butIhopedIwouldanyway.  I did some research online and found out a little information.  They do four-five regular shows each day featuring guests who auditioned throughout that very same day, and the winners for each show appear at the finale that evening, and the winner of that round would get a Golden Ticket, entitling them to skip to the front of the line at any city's actual audition for the show.  I hoped to get cast in the first place, and then I thought it would be great to sing again in the evening show, but seriously, that would have been totally satisfactory for me.  Outside the attraction they have Cast Members holding a sheet with a couple hundred songs to choose from and a good amount of basic information for those hoping to audition.  I was told later that on some days the park is less crowded but they get hundreds of auditions, and on other days, the park is full to capacity, and they don't get too many hopefuls in the audition rooms.  When I went to audition that morning, things were pretty quiet, but I could hear people singing and auditioning and practicing behind closed doors.
Crossing my fingers!  I've had bad luck with AI auditions in the past, so I'm a little stitious.
The two audition rounds were fun, a lot less crowded and even more seemingly legitimate, as they are actually looking for talent to put in their shows, rather than sideshow acts and sob stories.  The first producer I auditioned for really liked me, and made suggestions for what to sing for my next audition (she loved my "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" and also recommended "Go the Distance" from Hercules--sometimes they suggest doing a couple different style of song, but she thought the belty ballad was right up my alley), since she would definitely put me through.  I had a few minutes in their recreation of the infamous Coca-Cola "Red Room" to practice with one of the provided iPods, after which I auditioned for another producer, and then they cast me for one of the afternoon shows!

I'm through to the next round!  I have a golden ticket!
Practicing in the Red Room.
I suddenly have the strangest desire for a Coke.
These were the girls I competed with in round 1.  They were like 17.
After a little bit of filming with a director and cameralady, they told me to come back about an hour before the show, where I and the other two singers rotated between reviewing our piece, having a little hair/makeup touch-up, and working briefly with a vocal coach.
Apparently this lady has worked with a lot of former American Idol contestants.
It was so cool to be backstage and part of the show at a Disney theme park!  The theater was awesome, it totally looked like the one on TV, and the whole experience seemed really authentic and exciting.  We had a dress rehearsal, where we each sang through our pieces and had some final feedback from the vocal coach and stage manager, and then it was time for them to let in the audience and start the show!  The host had their schtick and introduced the three type-cast judges as well as the contestants, and then we each had our turn.  The other two contestants sang "This Is Me" and "Bubbly."  After we sang, the judges went around and gave us feedback and everything (they warned us that they paid one of the judges to occasionally say something a little sassy, they don't want to "cheat us out of the true American Idol experience," and not to take it too personally--he was still pretty nice to me, though he called my performance "a little square," and suggested I modernize it a little, which I thought was such a perfect criticism for some reason), so that was really fun too.

I was a little nervous that the girls who were in my round were there with a high school group (which counts for a lot of votes), but in the end I evidently garnered the majority of them and was invited to return that evening for the finale!

The camera operator would probably like it to be made mention that she was recording clandestinely from her lap, and the camera shifts downward at one point because they were pointing out to her in the audience and she didn't want to draw attention to the fact that she was recording.  The shakes are also explained by her clapping at certain points.  When I asked, they said they technically have to say they disallow video recording or photography, but they don't really enforce it.  I'm glad I because I desperately wanted this recorded, so, much thanks to Julie for being a great photographer and catching the key moments on bandit video. :D

I'm going to the finals!!!
It's hard to tell, but I'm doing the same pose as the square on the park map cover.

So we went around the park for a few hours and came back that evening for the finale show.  Presumably to generate interest and fill the audience seats, they had given us some swag that loudly proclaimed we had auditioned and were performing on the show.  A few people came up to me and said they really liked me and had voted for me and I said "Much thanks, and come back tonight and vote again!"  There were five singers this time, and the styles of music represented were very different.  The other songs were "Hit Me with Your Best Shot," "Achy, Breaky Heart," "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Holding Out for a Hero."  There was a different host and different judges, but the rest of it was pretty much the same, but a little more exciting.

When it came time to reveal the results, they even drew it out as long as possible, very Seacrest indeed.  They called two people forward and eventually told them their "journey" ends here, then they called down two more (self included) and said we were moving on.  So it was down to me and the girl who sang after I did, and after a good deal more stalling, she was named the winner!

She was cute and fun and enthusiastic and SO excited.  She was really good, and so into it, and she will actually use the Golden Ticket, so I'm really glad she won.
The winner is announced!  She looks like she just finished an Olympics gymnastics routine.
So that was it.  I felt like a celebrity, and on our way out at park closing, I noticed a lot of people (especially little kids) looking over and pointing and whispering to their parents or siblings about me.  A lot of people came up to be and randomly started applauding and cheering, encouraging me to keep singing (in case I was bummed that I didn't win), and how they were torn between me and the girl they eventually voted for.  Some said they would have picked me but they felt loyalty to the winner because they had seen her previous show.  It was awesome.

It was amazing all in all, and I'm so glad Julie was patient and let me spend so much time of our day doing this!  I think my until now insatiable yen to be on American Idol is actually more or less fulfilled.
My biggest fan!  And hers.


  1. OH my gosh!!!! Well, I'm your number TWO fan!!!! I can't believe you didn't make it to see J.Lo, in comparison to some of the flotsam and jetsam that they even have in the final 10!

  2. They should have picked you to go on to compete in the real show, Drew! You are amazing :) I'm so glad you go to have this experience.

  3. I'm going to call you my hottie build-a-bear for the rest of time. Thanks, judge!