On March 5th, LeAnn Rimes and Ne-Yo were in Love Theater at the Las Vegas Mirage Hotel and Casino as part of a non-singing double act. The 31 year-old country and pop singer was teamed up with 31 year-old R&B singer/songwriter and record producer Ne-Yo were sharing a couch and the stage on a CBS pilot, that was advertised as being the world premiere, which featured a new type of singing competition.
This new singing contest has a working title of The Spotlight – which shares one half of its name with Spotlight the United Kingdom’s casting directory. Considering that the producer of this new television venture is Englishman Nigel Lythgoe it encourages the question of whether he was responsible for the name or if it is one of the coincidences that so often occur in the business.
The show was filmed in the Las Vegas Mirage Hotel and Casino in their Love Theater. A “casting call” of sorts was put out for “live” audience members via the On Camera Audiences company which specializes in providing bums in seats for shows that are shot in front of a living breathing group of people versus a dead studio and artificial crowd noises added later.
64 year-old producer Lythgoe came out and spoke to the audience and thanked them for being there and he explained the show’s format. 12 young people were contestants for a singing match that only allowed a minimal amount of time for each singer to belt out their best. As each round commenced, two of the contestants would have been voted off.
The biggest difference was in how the voting worked, but, at the risk of enraging the program’s makers, or CBS, no further information can be revealed at this time. However, suffice to say, the show looked good. All the participants were wildly talented and it was truly saddening to see these great performers get booted off after votes were collected.
It makes sense that this CBS pilot would be good. Lythgoe has a good track record with these sort of shows and having the delightfully beautiful LeAnn Rimes and the always cool and impressive Ne-Yo in the Love Theater to semi-officiate over the contest being held in the Las Vegas Mirage Hotel and Casino certainly made the show enjoyable.
Equally enjoyable was the work of Vegas resident Mike Hammer, whose home is usually at the Four Queens Hotel and Casino, who “warmed up” the audience between takes and at the beginning of the show. Taking time to speak to many and either poke good natured fun at or have them get up on the stage to sing, this funny-man delivered as the man who “softened up” the punters before and during the show.
Presenting the contest was Jason Kennedy who may be better known to folks as E! correspondent and co-anchor of E! News Weekend and E! Online . Very personable and focussed, He rolled with the punches while filming and made very few mistakes from his end.
LeAnn Rimes looked stunning as usual in a dress that many in the audience believed was about to have a wardrobe malfunction, or at least Ms. Rimes’ bra strap was by having an “off” day. People in the crowd kept shouting to LeAnn that her bra strap had “slipped down” on her arm. After a while Nigel explained to the eagle-eyed and concerned participants that her dress was meant to look that way.
Both LeAnn and Ne-Yo looked great and provided valuable feedback to the singers as they were put through their paces. At one point Ms. Rimes had given one crowd favorite a less than glowing report on his skills. When the audience booed their dissatisfaction Ne-Yo very calmly explained that the feedback was honest and meant to help the artist and that there was no need “to boo.”
The two performers dealt with each contestant in a compassionate manner and were both very honest about how they perceived each of their performances. LeAnn Rimes and Ne-Yo also interacted well with the, sometimes, overenthusiastic audience in the Love Theater. Folks who lined up patiently outside the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas were rewarded with a full four and a half hours of entertainment and, for some, education on just how these musical contests work. It seems safe to say that a good time was had by all.
By Michael Smith