"Oh What a Beautiful Morning, Oh What a Beautiful Day." I didn't think this old heart could ever feel compassion again but last night's show moved me. I will be writing my cheque when I finish the recap. This is the mailing address: Idol Gives Back, C/O Citizens Bank, PO Box 4365, Woburn, Ma 01888-4365.
Last night's show was held at two locations. Seacrest, judges and contestants were at the studio in Los Angeles while Ellen DeGeneres held court for some amazing performances at Walt Disney Concert Hall, where 1,600 of her friends gathered. During the show, Ellen pledges $100,000 for the fund. I love that woman.
Throughout the night, we were shown some amazing videos of children in need from Africa and America. Through the generosity of Allstate, our first video showed the story of Katrina and New Orleans. It highlighted the fact that, after two years, many are still living in a disaster zone. FEMA parks which were set up as temporary homes have become danger zones with violence and drugs. The community center is a place of safety for the children and needs our support. Our next video was of little school children from Caberra, Africa. Grauman, age 12, is the head of his household and represents 50,000 orphans. We are reminded that he can be sent to school for less than $200 a year.Later in the show, we are shown a video of Paula at a Boys and Girls Club in Los Angeles. She is chatting with students who partake of the very worthwhile after-school programs that keep them safe while parents work. Our children are our future and deserve our help.
A video of Carrie Underwood in Africa with orphans of AIDS breaks my heart. Next we see the Appalachian Mountains. It is hard to believe that such poverty exists in America. Only five children in the school can afford the $1.50 for lunch. Illiteracy amongst their parents is a big economic factor. The school can only spend $500 a year on books...which I can tell you, as a former school librarian, is ludicrous. That amount will only buy 20 hard cover picture books. We are then taken back to Africa where Ryan and Simon visit a home the size of a tent with fourteen inhabitants. Most of them are sick with AIDS. Simon organizes to have Ruth taken to a hospital but she dies two days later. Ellen reminds us that $30 will buy ten children RAV drugs which will save their lives. Next we are asked how many funerals we have attended. Most of the actors questioned say two or three. John from Africa has attended 280 funerals, mostly of children dying from Malaria. A baby is rushed to hospital but doesn't make it. For two dollars, four children can have the drugs to save their lives. Mosquito nets can save a million children a year. From there, we go back to America where Randy shows us "Emotional Kits" for children who are poverty-stricken. Madonna then makes an impassioned plea for HIV children in Malawi. The videos have been dispersed throughout the night but they still send a powerful message: Children are in need and we must help.
Our videos are interspersed with some stellar performances and gags. Earth, Wind, & Fire perform a medley of their hits, "Boogie Wonderland," "Shining Star," and "September." They were presented with lots of horns, lots of falsettos, and lots of energy. Il Divo gives an amazing performance of "Somewhere." It is a very moving performance. The audience wave lights while a video shows African children blowing out their flickering candles, a very powerful visual. Carrie Underwood does a stirring rendition of "I'll Stand By You" as she holds an African child. It makes me cry. Rascal Flatts perform "My Wish," showing how Country Music can be inspirational. Josh Groban, accompanied by the delightful voices and faces of The African Children's Choir, moves me with "You Raise Me Up." Kelly Clarkson shows why she is the first American Idol when she sings "Up to the Mountain," accompanied by Jeff Beck on guitar. In a stunning work of technical genius, which I haven't figured out yet, Celine Dion sings with Elvis Presley, the original idol. Standing together on stage, they belt out "If I Can Dream." I saw him; he was right there, all sides of him, no impersonator. HOW? "Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water" is performed by Annie Lennox. This song always moves me. And of course, the evening wouldn't be complete without performances of our six Idol contestants. Their first performance occurs early in the evening. They perform a song written especially for the occasion by Quincy Jones called "Time to Care." The melody isn't as catchy as "We are the World," but the lyrics are stirring. They finish off the evening with "American Prayer" and some inspirational help from the missing Bono. His compassion is amazing and puts me to shame.
Besides the performances and videos, the evening featured some comic relief in the form of one liners and running gags. Ellen says Sanjaya has two pieces of advice: 1. Deep condition once a week 2. Donate. Ben Stiller threatens to sing until we raise two billion dollars. My cheque is coming, Ben. Jack Black wins a chance on stage and pushes Ryan off so he can perform for the judges. He sings a clip of "Kiss from a Rose." Randy says he has the wrong show; he should look for America's Top Model. Paula says that the School of Rock wants their diploma back. Simon quips, "Well you were better than Sanjaya." Jack gets a second opinion from Seal, who says it was the best rendition he's ever heard. Ryan encourages people to dial or Jack will start singing again. The Simpsons run their own American Idol auditions and Simon tries out, sings badly, but is given a golden ticket anyway, through a trap door in the floor.
Throughout the night, appeals are made by many famous stars. I won't get them all but here are some: Eric McCormack says that if every person who voted for Sanjaya sent just one dollar it would make a big difference. Dr. Phil pleads with us to help a child. Hugh Laurie, Terry Hatcher, Forest Whitaker and David Schwimmer make their pleas. During the performance of "Staying Alive," thirty-six stars lip sync their way to music fame. I see Hugh Grant, Miss Piggy and many, many more. I decide to watch instead of write so I didn't list their names.
Of course, we mustn't forget our top six contestants and the fact that this is a results show. Throughout the night Ryan calls them out in no particular order: Melinda, Blake, Phil, and LaKisha are safe. Then Ryan calls on both Jordin and Chris. In a dramatic moment he tells Chris he is safe. Is the shocking surprise that Jordin is leaving? No! Jordin is safe too. Not to spoil the feeling of charity pervading the evening, all contestants are safe. Next week there will be four hours to vote--all votes from both weeks will be tallied and two contestants will be sent home for a short vacation.
Ryan and Ellen do a good job of moving all the videos and performances along with very few glitches. Ryan thanks the various corporate sponsors. I didn't get them all but here are some: Allstate, Ford, and CocaCola. The show ends and I go to bed with a renewed confidence in the goodness of man and a commitment to send my cheque in the morning. By show's end, $30 million had been raised. We should be able to triple that by Tuesday.