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January 15, 2018

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‘American Idol’s’ $20 million Las Vegas shows at The Mirage bring ‘sudden death’ to hopefuls


George Holz/Fox

American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest is flanked by judges Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban.

Tonight’s 2-hour broadcast of Fox’s “American Idol” from Cirque du Soleil’s “The Beatles’ Love” theater at The Mirage proved to be a 10-hour day for Las Vegas fans attending Tuesday night’s first taping.

They had lined up as early as noon for audience tickets and were held in nearby 1OAK nightclub until doors opened late at 6 p.m. They turned over cell phones, and it wasn’t until 10 p.m. that they were returned after taping concluded.

“Do not send out Twitter messages of what you saw tonight,” implored Fox executives. “Do not put anything on Facebook as to what happened. We must keep the surprise for 24 hours!”

The media group, which included yours truly, also was sworn to secrecy about the performances and the judges’ cuts. However, we can tell you that 10 girls were lined up face to face with host Ryan Seacrest for the opening, which had to be shot twice. They were propelled under the stage on a Cirque floor lift as Ryan introduced the judges, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and Randy Jackson, and explained the new “sudden death” eliminations.

This was the first-ever Las Vegas audience show, and it got off to a slow start. A warm-up announcer tried to keep fans’ attention for an hour before taping of the 2-hour show got underway. But with stops and starts, it ran nearly 3 hours.

It is a monumental and expensive TV production for executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, a regular Las Vegas visitor. I was told it’s a budget of about $20 million for the three weeks here. They have four taped shows to get through in order to be 100 percent to time for the third week of two shows from the “Love” theater. Tonight as the girls’ elimination airs, the boys’ elimination will be taped.

Next week, it’s another two tapings for further elimination, with the Top 20 announced Feb. 28. Then March 5 and 6, it’s two Las Vegas broadcasts before returning to L.A. for the March 7 showdown.

Local Fox 5 “More” producer and host Sean McAllister interviewed Ryan, Mariah, Keith and Randy from backstage for the 10 p.m. newscast. They admitted that the sudden-death eliminations were tough on the judges, particularly since the first round with the girls was “the most talented crop of contestants we’ve had so far.”

“We wanted something completely different for this extended visit to Las Vegas,” explained Ryan. An MGM source told me: “They are in love with the Cirque theater. It adds even more visual excitement to the production, and Las Vegas audiences getting to see the show for the first time are really charged up.”

Mariah took the opportunity to plug her new record “Almost Home” released Tuesday from the upcoming Disney film “Oz.”

She also revealed that while here, she’s wrapping up recording final tracks of her new CD at Studio at the Palms with Randy as her producer. Randy has been in meetings here with Las Vegas producers about the possibility of developing a Strip show with his own talented singers.

Fox’s massive Las Vegas exposure with “American Idol” continues March 12 with the debut episode of the new season of “Hell’s Kitchen” taped at Paris Las Vegas. “American Idol” airs on Fox at 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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