• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

'American Idol' Producers Try to Speed Up Mariah Carey's Comments, Get Control of Stage Smoke: What You Didn't See on TV

Plus: Keith Urban snaps a selfie, finalist family members play musical chairs and Ryan Seacrest goes all out. As always, THR has a primo seat.

Kree Harrison performance top 6 P
Frank Micelotta / FOX

When the season 12 contestants gather for breakfast on Friday, there will be one less egg to fry. But will it be five girls or four and a guy? Before we find out the results tonight, here are 15 things you didn’t see if you watched American Idol at home on Wednesday night. The Hollywood Reporter, as always, had a prime seat at Stage 36. Read on ...

1. When the cameras weren’t rolling, Randy Jackson was up out of his judge’s chair to say hello to a member of the audience. Whom was he talking to? The only person in the Idol-dome who was an Academy Award winner. No, it wasn’t Jennifer Hudson. It was returning Idol fan Sir Anthony Hopkins. Randy was quickly joined by fellow judge Mariah Carey. And while they were conversing with the British actor, warm-up fill-in comic Jay told the audience that Hopkins won a Best Actor Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs but was only on screen for 20 minutes, the shortest amount of screen time ever for a Best Actor winner (we looked it up after the show and it was actually a little over 16 minutes, but we get Jay’s point).

2. On the first commercial break, there was an outburst of screams from the audience. Was an Idol contestant on stage? Or Mariah? Or Nicki Minaj? Keith Urban? No, the guests were screaming for Ryan Seacrest, who responded by slapping their hands, as any rock star would.

3. To a first-time visitor to a live broadcast of Idol, it might have looked like the front rows of the audience were playing musical chairs, as groups of four were being switched after every performance. What was really going on was Idol production staffer Danny Digneit moving families and friends of the next contestant to perform into a row where they would be seen on camera, including Kree Harrison’s brother, who had permission from his boss to miss work so he could see his sister perform on the show.

4. If the Idol stage looked more crowded than usual for the Burt Bacharach/Hal David-themed show, it was. Ray Chew’s band was supplemented with an extra horn section and an extra string section to accompany the songwriters’ classics like “I Say a Little Prayer” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.”

5. Just before Lazaro Arbos performed his song “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” Ray Chew’s band could be heard rehearsing the music. But not to Lazaro’s song. They were working out “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” the Jackie DeShannon classic that was going to be performed by Kree Harrison.

STORY: 'American Idol' Recap: Candice Glover Sparkles in Best Show Performance of 'All Time'

6. The level of noise in the studio during commercial breaks usually rises as audience members talk to each other about the previous segment, but on one break stage manager Debbie Williams (the “Deb” Ryan Seacrest was referring to earlier in the show when, announcing that the show had received an award from the National Association of Broadcasters, he thanked the crew and added, “Deb, I love you”) asked for everyone to be quiet so they record a brief segment. It was Ryan throwing to a comment from Jimmy Iovine.

7. One of the challenges of a live show is making it finish exactly on time. That’s what producers do, and with the clock ticking, as Mariah Carey was offering her comments on Janelle Arthur’s rendition of “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” executive producer Nigel Lythgoe signaled to Ryan Seacrest to enter into frame and move the show along, even though Carey still had more to say. 

8. While it might seem that some of the Bacharach/David songs performed by the Idol finalists tonight were Dionne Warwick hits, in truth, all six selections were recorded by the veteran artist. The obvious Warwick selections were “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” and her first hit, “Don’t Make Me Over.” But Warwick recorded “(They Long to Be) Close to You” for her first album, Make Way for Dionne Warwick, released in 1964 (seven years before the Carpenters took the song to No. 1). And Jackie DeShannon released “What the World Needs Now Is Love” in 1965, only after Warwick turned it down. But after the song went to No. 7 for DeShannon, Warwick recorded it for her 1967 album Here Where There Is Love.

9. After Janelle Arthur’s second performance, warm-up guy Jay admonished the audience, a rare Idol occurrence. “Half of you weren’t applauding,” he scolded, encouraging them to clap louder and more enthusiastically for the rest of the broadcast. They must have taken the hint, because later on, he thanked the guests in the studio for being a “great audience.”

10. On the next commercial break, Keith Urban leapt out of his judge’s chair and ran over to the side of the stage where a small number of audience members were standing in the “mosh pit.” He stood in front of them, extended his hand and snapped a selfie. Then he ran back to his chair and with seconds to go, tweeted the photo, showing off the “coolest audience in the world.”

 VIDEO: 'American Idol' Season 12: Top 10 Finalist Red Carpet Interviews

11. For some performances, Idol producers cover the stage in smoke for dramatic effect. Tonight, for Angie Miller’s performance of “Love Came Down,” the effect went overboard and stage manager Debbie Williams had to fan the smoke away from the judges so they could see the performance -- and, presumably, breathe.

12. If you want to know what the judges are thinking before they deliver their critiques, just watch them while the finalists are performing. If they love a song, they’re not afraid to show it, waving their hands, shaking their heads and offering hosannas. Angie Miller got that treatment tonight for “Love Came Down” and Candice Glover for “Don’t Make Me Over” as well as “Love Song.”

13. Every year, the shape of the Idol audience is a little bit different. There are fewer seats this year, but there are two new sections, one on stage left and on one stage right. They are designed for audience members with disabilities, and include a chair lift to raise wheelchairs from the ground to the elevated sections.

14. On yet another commercial break, Debbie Williams points out some Keith Urban fans in the audience, inspiring the Idol judge to leap out of his chair and greet the fans with hugs they will never forget. As Urban prepares to run back to the stage before the break ends, Williams tells him to stay in the audience, seated among his fans. That’s why the country star was seated in the audience when the show returned from the break and Ryan Seacrest was sitting in Urban’s chair.

15. Candice Glover couldn’t help but show her emotions when the judges and studio audience reacted to her sensational performance of the Cure’s “Lovesong,” fashioned after the Adele version. Ryan Seacrest comforted her with a hug just before rolling the video recap. During that review, Debbie Williams gave Glover another hug, and then the other five contestants did the same, expressing support for their fellow contestant during her vulnerable moments. 

Twitter: @Idol_Worship