“So You Think You Can Dance” is returning for season 14 to the 18-30 age group with an old friend of the show’s back in the mix: Mary Murphy.
“We’re putting people on the Hot Tamale Train!” an exuberant Nigel Lythgoe commented on my radio show last Friday. The show’s co-creator and judge called from Los Angeles in what is now seemingly an annual tradition after the competition’s renewal. “I’ve got to say, I’ve supported Mary. I’ve got a great chemistry with Mary that I love. She can beat me up and hurt me and I can be rude to her, and that’s all part of the fun of the show.”
Both Lythgoe and Murphy were in Brooklyn earlier this month for auditions alongside Vanessa Hudgens, the former Disney star who as of late saw herself star both on Broadway and in “Grease: Live”.
“She’s just the triple-threat,” gushed Lythgoe about Hudgens. “They can act, they can sing, they can dance. Therefore for a start, they recognize the amount of work that goes in to being a great performer, and number two the talent that is required.”
The former “American Idol” producer was pleased with the talent he saw in Brooklyn, going as far as to make a rather bold prediction.
“I would suggest, and I’m not going to name names, that one of the kids we saw there is going to be the overall winner,” Lythgoe said. “There was a young man there that was outstanding.”
There have only been two other contestants that made Lythgoe feel that way: Carrie Underwood and Season 11 “Dance” winner Ricky Ubeda. Not a bad group to join.
The latest installment of the Fox competition “So You Think You Can Dance” has taken co-creator and judge Nigel Lythgoe a bit by surprise.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it as much as usual,” the former “American Idol” producer told me over the phone, calling in from Los Angeles. “We were asked by Fox to do a sort of junior version of it and I thought, ‘Oh, well I’m not sure how good these kids are gonna be.’
“I am absolutely delighted with the talent that we’ve seen. It is a new crop of dancers; they’re sort of 8 to 13 and they are just incredible.”
The show is now in its 13th season. Lythgoe, along with judges Paula Abdul and Jason Derulo all return. With the spin on the age of the dancers, a fourth judge in 13 year-old Maddie Ziegler is also on the panel.
“She is a very talented girl and obviously a muse for Sia,” Lythgoe said of Ziegler, who hails from Pittsburgh. “We thought (that) if we’re going to have a panel of judges for these kids we should have like the kid sister (Ziegler), the older brother in Jason, the aunty in Paula and the granddaddy in me!”
Former “American Idol” executive producer Nigel Lythgoe is interested in contributing to the show’s final season, set for next year.
“I feel like it’s my baby; I brought it over here (from England),” he told “Ralphie Tonight” on Sunday at the Tony Awards red carpet. “But I don’t know what egos are involved right now.”
Lythgoe produced “Idol” for 11 years, from its start in 2002 to 2013 when both he and fellow EP Ken Warwick were replaced. In a statement following his departure, the TV vet said that he was looking forward to focusing more on his other baby – “So You Think You Can Dance.” That show is currently in its 12th season with a pair of new judges alongside Lythgoe: Jason Derulo and former “Idol” panelist Paula Abdul.
“A panel of judges isn’t about the individual,” he explained. “It’s about how you sit together. You know, looking at something like ‘The Voice’; it’s fantastic how Blake (Sheldon) and Adam (Levine) really made that work, and anyone that comes in to it now feels very comfortable.
“We’ve three have just got to make it work for ourselves now, and I think over the series we’ll certainly do that.”
It’s big business – billion dollar business, to be exact. Perhaps that explains why so many big stars from across entertainment continue to flock to Broadway for producing and/or starring roles. But as evidenced in last Sunday night’s “Tony Awards” broadcast, there is obviously more to the boom than just dollars and cents.
“I think people love live theater,” James Monroe Iglehart told me outside of Radio City Music Hall in New York City on the red carpet. Iglehart took home a “Tony” last year for his current role as “The Genie” in “Aladdin: The Musical.” “There’s something about watching people doing it right in front of you… they are not lip-syncing, there are no special effects, they are just singing and acting and dancing in front of you. There’s an energy to it that cannot be matched.”
That was Iglehart’s way of not only explaining Broadway’s identity, but also its success. Box office revenues climbed to over $1.3 billion this past season.
The earnest seen on stage is clearly admired by all entertainers, including multi-platinum recording artist Josh Groban.
“To me this is such a pinnacle, to be in this theater world, to be up there on the Tony’s stage,” he remarked prior to the show. The American Theater Wing and The Broadway League tapped Groban to perform during the “In Memoriam” portion of the broadcast. “Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to be in the theatrical world.”
Others, like TV producer and “So You Think You Can Dance” creator/judge Nigel Lythgoe actually began their careers on the stage.
“I started off as a West End Dancer,” Lythgoe responded when I asked him why he became involved in the revival of “On The Town.” The production earned four nominations, including “Best Revival Of A Musical,” but lost to “The King and I.” “So just being a part of Broadway feels like I’ve sort of come full circle.”
Speaking of full circle, when the topic of “American Idol” was mentioned, Lythgoe reiterated that he would like to take part in the show’s final season next year. The producer, who brought the competition to the States from across the pond, added that he doesn’t know, “what egos are involved.”
And that is another interesting thing about the red carpet of “The Tony Awards”: egos seem to be checked at the door. Kelsey Grammer, who performed on Broadway long before he came known as “Frasier,” told me that he was lured back to the stage because in his opinion, “Finding Neverland” is “the best show I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“It’s just one of my favorite stories,” said Grammer, who performed on the telecast as his character, Captain Hook. “I was invited to come and seen the out-of-town tryout basically, and I just thought it was breathtaking.”
“Neverland” did not receive a “Tony” nomination, but at least the snub isn’t reflected in the box office numbers; in the week leading up to the award show, the musical tallied over a million dollars in ticket sales. With an influx of theatergoers on the horizon thanks to warmer weather and tourist season, “The Tony’s” may have come and gone, but for the foreseeable future the business is here to stay.
Creator, executive producer, and judge Nigel Lythgoe from “So You Think You Can Dance” called “Ralphie Tonight” to chat about the show, currently in its 11th season. Lythgoe offered his opinion on the most recent elimination along with the audience’s reaction, and talked about some of the musical acts that have received big breaks from the show over the years.
‘SYTYCD’ was recently nominated for 7 Emmy Awards, taking home the trophy for “Outstanding Costumes For A Variety Program Or A Special.”