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A tale of two shows

 As you're likely aware, American Idol Experience opened officially over the weekend and is now fully operational. There are plenty of folks who have voiced their disinterest in the show as well as others who haveseen the show and enjoyed it. Regardless of your persuasion regarding American Idol being in the Studios, the attraction is now here and open and I've often been asked questions along the lines of, "Well, now that it's open, what do you think of the attraction?". The truth of the matter is my opinion depends on which show we're talking about because clearly there are two very different shows you can experience.

You may be perplexed as to what I'm talking about when I say two different shows. After all, isn't it the same basic show regardless of which one you see? In theory, the answer to that question is yes but in reality, the answer is no. I've seen about a half dozen different American Idol Experience shows so far and I've clearly found a difference between the shows. Basically, there's the regular show and then there's the finale show and each type elicits a very different review from me.

Let's start with the regular show, which is every show of the day except for the finale show. Each regular show is about 20 minutes long and features 3 contestants who sing in front of the audience. Both the regular and finale shows have the same preshow elements but it's what happens inside the theater that's different. First and foremost, the regular shows feature contestants with varying degrees of singing ability. Often, I've found one contestant here will be good and the others pale in comparison. I have yet to see a regular show where there's a real question as to who is the most talented of the three. This alone leaves a sour taste in my mouth as I'm not getting a real competition as one might expect. In addition, there isn't even a sense that anything is one the line here, after all, the winner of the regular show doesn't win anything except an opportunity to compete again.

There's one more bad aspect to the regular show and that's the "Music in me" montage that features Jordin Sparx. Okay, Disney is known for cheesy montages, such as the "True Colors" montage at "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" at Epcot. However, this one is extra cheesy and frankly not entertaining and the sort of video that gave me the chills because of how utterly "artificial" the whole thing feels. Adding to the cheese factor is that the Cast Members encourage the guests in the audience to stand up and sing along and there's nothing worse than forced enthusiasam.

So far it sounds like American Idol Experience is a pretty bad attraction, right? Well, that's where I change my tune. You see, the finale show is almost a complete opposite in terms of the opinion I have of the show. The finale show is usually at 7pm, it's 40 minutes long and and has as many contestants as there were reglar shows in that day (usually 5-7). Right off the bat, you are seeing the best of the best from that day. The contestants with marginal talent have been weeded out largely and you have a set of half a dozen singers who actually do know how to sing and it makes for a much better competition. I've often found myself hearing one contestant and deciding to vote for him or her only to change my vote again once I hear the next contestant that is even better.

Adding to the level of talent here, there's a real sense of having something that the contestants are going for in the final show. The winner of the finale show gets a golden ticket to the front of the line of any American Idol tryout and regardless of your own opinions of the show, the fact is those competing for it are out to win it and when there's something on the line, it makes for a better competition. Topping off the finale show is the fact that there's no "Music in me" montage and that alone is almost worth making a difference. Also, the finale show is at the end of the day and on nights where Fantasmic! is not being shown, it's pretty easy to see, and by skipping the regular shows, it frees up your park touring schedule so you can experience other attractions in the Studios during the day. Once the evening rolls around, there tends to be less options in terms of attractions available at that time of the day so from a touring standpoint, the finale show makes sense.

After seeing both sorts of shows a few times, I really do enjoy the finale show while my opinion of the regular show varies based on the talent present. If you're going to see one show of American Idol Experience, do yourself a favor and see the finale show so you can really see the best that American Idol Experience has to offer. If you're in the camp of people that likes the idea of American Idol Experience to begin with, you may consider seeing more shows during the day. Without a doubt, there is a difference between the shows and don't write off American Idol Experience without at least seeing the finale show on any given day.

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A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 by