'Idol Gives Back' : What You Didn't See

Photo: Ray Mickshaw / FOX; F. Micelotta / American Idol 2008/Getty

Double Take When Reese Witherspoon walked onstage to introduce a clip about one of her favorite charities, the Children’s Defense Fund, the crowd went crazy. The Oscar winner’s audio worked fine, but apparently there was a technical glitch. Stage manager Debbie McVickers rushed out and asked Witherspoon do it again. Witherspoon giggled and told the audience, “Pretend you didn’t see me!” Witherspoon was re-introduced and this time the crowd’s enthusiasm was even stronger. Who says only actors can act?

Stand & Deliver Snoop Dogg delivered the first performance of the night, bringing the crowd — and seven of the top eight Idol finalists — to their feet. But Jason Castro, seated at the front of a balcony with the other contestants, rested his head on his hands while the rapper was onstage. It wasn’t until Heart‘s Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson came out to collaborate with Fergie that Castro got out of his chair. At this point, Brooke White and Carly Smithson looked like they might rappel down the wall to join the veteran rockers but instead just held up their arms and sang along.

Move ‘Em Out During Carrie Underwood‘s performance, the Idols were escorted out of the balcony to a backstage dressing room where they changed into all-white attire to sing the final number, “Shout to the Lord,” with a gospel choir. Several kids at an adjacent balcony waved to the contestants and David Cook outstretched his arm for a quick high-five with them before leaving.

Elliott Feels the Love Season five contestant — and fan favorite — Elliott Yamin was genuinely touched by fans’ adoration before the show. Several young girls hugged the shaggy-haired singer, whose mother, Claudette, passed away earlier this month. Soon a line formed and Yamin cheerfully obliged every request, even for the two young girls who came totally unprepared for autographs — Elliott signed their right arms!

Idol Calling Back at the Idol stage Wednesday, producers set up four rows of desks, where this season’s top 12 — including eliminated contestants David Hernandez, Ramiele Malubay, Amanda Overmyer and Chikezie — busily worked the phones and fielded pledges while the broadcast aired. And it wasn’t just Idols pitching in. Ryan Seacrest and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe picked up phones as well, although the producer mostly played schoolmaster, making sure everyone was hard at work collecting donations. “He’s been on the same call all night,” Lythgoe joked to the audience about a caller that wouldn’t let David Archuleta get off the phone. IT guys helped Carly Smithson and Syesha Mercado get their computers working, and contestants passed phones to each other whenever a lucky caller would ask to speak with a different Idol.

Danny, It’s for You! During one of the commercial breaks, stage manager McVickers called out into the audience, “Hey Danny, come up here!” Moments later, former contestant Danny Noriega got out of his seat and headed toward the stage, where Brooke, who was chatting with a fan, handed the phone to Noriega, who made someone’s day while also collecting a pledge.

Private Encore After the show ended, Seacrest came out to thank the live studio audience for being so patient and so supportive throughout the broadcast. Then, the Top 8 came out and gave an encore performance of “Shout to the Lord” — choir and all — as confetti exploded onto the stage and the crowd swayed together in one big happy group. Michael Johns lay down on the stage and did snow angels in the confetti.

More Stuff You Didn’t See • After Debbie’s big moment with Brad Pitt on the Kodak stage, Corey the warm-up guy asked the crowd to give her a big round of applause for a job well done. “I was hiding in a dressing room,” she said. “I didn’t want to see it.”

• During one of the breaks, Debbie walked up to Jason Castro, who was on a call, and held up one of his thick locks, asking the audience, “How much would you pay for one of his dreads?”

• Each time an Idol would receive a big pledge on the phone, they would lift their arm up in the air and scream out in celebration. At one point, Nigel Lythgoe ran over and yelled, “Syesha just got $1,000!” –Jed Dreben and Monica RizzoRay Mickshaw / FOX; F. Micelotta / American Idol 2008/Getty

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