Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rachel's American Idol Experience

I've downloaded all the pictures from my camera and cell phone and got the pictures that Uncle John took, so expect some more posts about vacation.

First up: Rachel's American Idol Experience.

If you're a fan of American Idol, you know the new attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios is The American Idol Experience. Interest contestants can audition throughout the day for one of three slots in seven shows, with a chance to win a slot in the finale and have a crack at winning the golden ticket, which is a pass to the front of the line of a real American Idol audition.

Rachel saw that and was hooked. Could she she try? Sure, why not? We headed out what we thought was first thing in the morning but was actually closer to noon and got in the short line for auditions. Made our way inside and she got her chance to sing her a capella version of a pop song I'm not familiar with but which she sounded beautifully. Right on key to my ears. Rachel's always had the talent of perfect pitch. The screener gave her some tips, asked for some changes, and had her give it another go. Nailed it. But the screener said they only had 21 slots for the day and, unfortunately, they'd filled the ones they needed of her style. But she sounded and looked good, followed and applied directions well, and wished her luck. A nice let down. She'd gave it her best and, well, sometimes that's -

"Dad, if we came back earlier tomorrow, I'd have a better chance of getting in."

Well, I couldn't argue with that logic. And it was good to see her fired up so, why not? We scheduled another early rise and when we got back to the room that evening, she spent a good deal of time practicing for the next day.

Next day, we were up bright and early and in the park a little after opening. Same routine, got to the first screener, who was a nice lady from Texas, and who, again, was impressed with Rachel's sound and look and ability to follow and put into effect the advice she was given. On to the next round for her! Which was like a producer or something.

We cooled it for a while in the "red room," with Coca Cola logos emblazoned everywhere, and Rachel got a chance to choose her performance song from a list and listen to the track on an iPod and do some more practicing. We got called in and met the "producer," another nice, encouraging guy, and he had Rachel give her song a go with the backing track and watched her on his monitor. They have all sorts of videos throughout the process with Ryan Seacrest and the other Idols mouthing their lines and this time Seacrest came on and told Rachel she didn't make it to Hollywood but she did make it to a show later in the day! Woot! Her slot was for 5:00 and she was to show up an hour before, with her VIPs - Mom and Emily - to show up for special seats at 4:30. She leapt out of the room, waving her lanyard, just like in the TV show. I managed to catch her at a calmer moment:

We came back as instructed - since she's under 18, I have to be there for everything - and met her competition, a young man who is a theatre major in Pennsylvania, entering the National Guard in a month, and a young lady who had graduated with a theatre degree from New Jersey, who had competed two months prior and won her show but not the finale, wearing a red dress and nice shoes. Sigh. Well, Rachel was undaunted. She had time with hair and makeup:

Some time with a vocal coach, and then she cooled it for a while in the green room, which is actually more blue than green:

And we waited for rehearsal time. We were restricted from taking video and all I had was my Blackberry and I'd be stuck backstage during the performance but I would get a chance to see how things would go during rehearsal.

Here's the sign on stage:

They worked on coming out onstage and hitting their spots:

And then she ran through her performance:

Wow! The backing tracks really boomed through the auditorium and Rachel kept right up with it. Flawless, if you ask me, and it's not like I'm prejudiced or anything. The young man did Michael Jackson's I Want You Back - suck up - which was quite good, and the young lady did a soulful version of Natural Woman. Tough competition but Rachel was up for it.

Backstage again for us. We heard the audience come in, got a peak at 'em through the curtains - the auditorium held 1,000, not a huge amount but big enough - and Rachel managed to keep her cool.

Once Rachel headed back onstage, my only view was of the monitor. Thanks to my crappy Blackberry camera, I got some crappy pictures of the monitor and Rachel's performance:

They had three judges, just like the show: an amiable black guy, who liked what he saw and heard, a kooky gal, who liked what she saw and heard, too, and a cranky guy, who was mean and got lots of boos for his comments. The other two performed, the audience voted and. . .

The girl in the red dress won.


They closed the show, everybody rushed on stage and congratulated her, the judges and Seacrest character came back and slapped me on the back, and everyone was just as nice as they could be. Rachel took her loss well and we chalked this one up as something we'd never done before and we were glad Rachel had done it. Proud? Oh, you can't imagine.

I think Rachel learned a little something about herself, about applying her talent, and overcoming her fears. Something you don't expect when you go on vacation. Beats another set of Mickey Mouse ears.


  1. Holy cow! GO RACHEL!!!! I'm so proud of her! Takes a strong person to do all that, and it's even cooler to hear that she kicked some serious tail! Indeed, much better than another set of Mickey Mouse ears.

  2. Kicked serious tail, indeed! Thanks for kind comments, Tammi. Always glad when you drop by.