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TO Opening Act

Reality shows have, over the past decade, mat-|erialised in formats that see-sawed between successful and disastrous. With The X Factor (US) unashamedly capitalising on the diminishing interest in American Idol, Nigel Lythgoe – the brainchild behind offerings such as Pop Idol, American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance – has decided to throw his oar in with Opening Act, writes Debashine Thangevelo.

FRESHNESS is definitely crucial when trying to pitch a concept to captivate viewers on a staple diet of reality TV. And that is what executive producer Nigel Lythgoe (pictured) hopes to achieve with Opening Act.

He takes the mundane out of singing reality shows by getting artists such as Jason Derulo and Pete Wenz to search the web for potential talent to be the opening act for some of the biggest singers in the industry.

Lythgoe explains: “The concept is a group of us including Jason Derulo, Nick Cooper, who is a vocal coach, Antonina Armato, who is in Rock Mafia, Martina McBride and Pete Wenz from Fall out Boy, and I trawl the web trying to find an opening act for all of these stars who are going out on tour in America.

“So we found opening acts for LMFAO, Lady Gaga, Jason Mraz, Nicki Minaj, Rod Stewart, Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley and Gym Class Heroes. We find them and knock on their door and say: ‘Hey! We have seen you playing your guitar and in five days’ time you are opening for Lady Gaga!’ So that’s when the sort of story begins.”

And it is the element of surprise that is one of the strongest components of the show.

The executive producer continues: “The great thing about it is that it’s not a competition; it’s their show and the hour is about them and what they do in that period of time. If they step up to the plate, or if they just cry, or crumble, if you will, with the pressure. There is no judging, no auditions and they have just got to decide, their biggest decision really, as to what song to sing when they open for these acts.”

Lythgoe says the response to the show has been as encouraging as the reactions by the “finds”.

He laughs: “Well, they don’t believe it. They just think, ‘who is this Olivia Lee [host]?’ ‘Who is this English girl who has just come in here and told me this?’ But, what we have done is record the headliners. There was this one kid who works in Best Buy and Olivia went in, stopped him and he was like: ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ Then, on every television in the place Jason Mraz pops up and says: ‘Hi Jonno! Jason Mraz here! I’d love for you to come and be my opening act in Hawaii!’. And so it’s validated by the headliners themselves.

“There’s one kid who wrote a song about bullying, which is a big thing in America at the moment, and Jason Aldean, the country star, literally says: ‘I have heard your song Phoebe, and I really have to tell you it is absolutely beautiful’, and you can see the girl crying over her hero, who is Jason Aldean, and she is now opening for! So that was just lucky, we can’t guarantee that they are their heroes or the people who inspire them, it’s just whomever is out on tour.”

With teen superstar Justin Bieber first discovered on YouTube, who knows who could luck out with this big opportunity.

As for what Lythgoe hopes to achieve with the show, he offers: “It is just about finding other ways to do talent shows. And it is the greatest thing people are watching at the moment.

“There are tons of shows out there… so the show has to be good if the public is going to support it and I think we are coming to the zenith of that now. And we have to find other ways of keeping it interesting – Opening Act does that.”

Well, there is no denying that Opening Act is bagging headlines at the moment. For how long, it remains to be seen!

• Opening Act airs on E! Entertainment (DStv channel 124) on Saturday at 8pm.


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