Over the weekend of December 3-5, 2011, the latest upcoming Canadian TV reality talent show, Canada’s Got Talent, came into Toronto to host the callbacks for those Toronto area contestants who auditioned for the show back in September 2011.
Two shows were held on each of the three days to accommodate 120 contestants. According to one of the emcees, around 8000 people in Toronto alone had vied for this opportunity. Auditions were also held in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal and Halifax, bringing the total number of hopefuls to somewhere around 12,000 across Canada.
For those who enjoy TV talent shows looking for the next singing or dance superstar, the one with that elusive “x factor”, this was an opportunity too good to miss. Being a TV talent show addict, and given that tickets were free, there was no way I could resist the chance to see what really goes on before the clips are cut and edited for prime time viewing. In all, I attended 3 of the 6 shows and my only complaint was what I call numb bum from sitting so long. In retrospect, I wish I’d had the time to attend all the shows: it was that much fun.
Lights, action, camera as Dina Pugliese begins to rev up the lineup waiting to get into the John H Bassett Theatre in Toronto for Canada's Got Talent Live Callback show
The line-up before each show was only about an hour. During a short intermission, Tim Hortons gave away free coffee. If folks were hungry, there were 3 independent food trucks serving hot dogs, hamburgers and poutine parked in front of the Metro Convention Center. Once seated inside the beautiful John H. Bassett Theatre, the fun began with radio personalities revving up the audience. We were primed on how to show our approval and appreciation, and the reverse. We were told it’s un-Canadian to “boo”, but if we didn’t like something, we could cross our arms in an “X” to mimic the judges’ buzzer lights, and chant “off, off, off”. Standing ovations were encouraged; gum-chewing wasn’t. And in the contestants’ best interests, the audience was advised not to twitter or disclose on Facebook the names of those who succeeded in moving on to next round.
Despite being forewarned, the audience jumped when the judges’ buzzers were tested before the show started. They were so loud, they prompted Rudy Blair of Radio station 680 to laughingly remark “I think I need to go change my pants!”
The judges, comedian/entertainerMartin Short, producer/songwriter,Stephan Mocchio and opera singer, Measha Brueggergosman made grand entrances for each show and after each intermission. Those seated in the very front row on the left where they entered got high fives, handshakes, even hugs from the judges. The atmosphere was friendly, funny and light-hearted throughout the entire show, even when judges disagreed ... and disagree they did. On occasion, when an act’s advancement was really in question, the judges would bring in the “4th judge”, the audience, who showed its feelings by cheering and clapping if they felt an act should go on. Sometimes that 4th judgement was what it took for a final decision from one of the primary judges.
What one rarely sees on the TV shows is the amount of time it takes to set up and dismantle the stage between acts. Band drum sets had to be wheeled on; magician’s props, often large, had to be set up and taken down. Musician keyboards had to be replaced with risers for choirs and later replaced by mats or stepped, high equipment for cycle or gymnastic acts. As the audience patiently waited for these changeovers, the stage sweeper entered with his broom, and by the end of the first show on the first day, the broom-man became as much of a star as the contestants. The audience cheered his every entry, so much so that in the end, even he took a bow!
Other stage-change time fillers involved both judges and audience impromptu dancing to thumping energetic music. Young and old stood up in their seats in frenetic fun. And every so often, when the changeovers were taking a really long time, the emcees came out into the audience asking who has a talent they’d like to share. Usually, those who volunteered were singers, mostly young ones whose parents eagerly took videos of their child’s moment in front of Canada’s Got Talent TV cameras.
So what of the talent itself? Does Canada have talent? You bet it does. We saw magicians, tap dancers, choirs, dog acts, singers, bands, gymnasts, dangerous stunts and martial arts. And yes, there were the other acts too: the ones who made the buzzers buzz and the audience chant “OFF, OFF!”. As Stephan Mocchio recently twittered: “When u see 120 acts in 3 days, the only ones that stand out are the truly great 1s and the truly bad 1s.”Canada's Got Talent has now moved on to Winnipeg where the selected few will strut their stuff for the judges over December 13-14. After Christmas, the last set of live auditions will take place in Halifax on January 6th and Montreal on January 10 - 11.
It’s not every day we get to be part of a TV show as big as this one promises to be. Just being in that theatre, seeing the stage set up, the lights, the cameras and the action shows you how expensive it must be to put something like this together all across Canada. If you follow all the chatter on Facebook, sometimes it’s really depressing to read the inane comments made by those who were either unsuccessful in their bid for a spot or who are quick to criticize something they’ve never really seen outside of their living rooms. Attending just one of these live shows is an experience not to missed if one of these shows comes to a nearby city. It gives you a much clearer perspective about the entire process. Unlike the Idol and singing shows which attract, extol and berate only singers, Canada’s Got Talent is about all kinds of talent in many different art forms and disciplines. That is the strength and appeal of Canada’s Got Talent: it’s one great big variety show starring an assortment of talented Canadians. Fabulously entertaining!