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Disney’s American Idol Experience Opens Feb. 14

Disney World‘s specialty is fantasy, but a new attraction opening Feb. 14 will deal in real-life dreams.

The American Idol Experience, a near-exact replica of the theater the “American Idol” TV show uses, will give singers a chance to audition, perform and maybe even get a spot to try out for the real “Idol.”

If the singing is as polished as the set, it should be another Mickey triumph.

If the singing is bad, no Disney magic will be able to fix it.

I got a look at the “Idol” set. It has a black, blue and silver stage, replete with hi-def cameras, judges’ table and a 1,000-seat auditorium.

American Idol Experience is in Disney World’s Hollywood Studios area (formerly MGM).

Here’s how it will work: Up to about 400 people a day will be able to sign up for auditions online (at www.disneyworld.com/idol) or in person. Each singer will do a short a cappela song of his or her choice, in front of a casting director in a private room. That casting director will give the singer tips and determine whether he or she goes on to the next stage or, like most, gets the boot.

“The majority of people who watch the show know that only a small percent of singers will go on, but they will still have fun. So even if you experience what you would call rejection, they’ve still had a good experience,” says Laura Offerdahl, Disney entertainment producer for the Idol Experience.

Those who make it through will go to a VIP room to choose songs from 113 choices, get vocal tips, then sing in front of a producer, using a microphone and taped music.

Every day, producers will choose 21 people from the VIP level to sing in front of the Disney audience — three singers at each of seven performances.

That’s no small thing. The huge audience will have armchair electronic voting pads to vote for their favorite performer — and determine who wins. The final seven favorites (one from each performance) will sing in a finale at each day’s end, and the ultimate winner gets a prize — a “head-of-the-line” pass to audition for the real “Idol.”

Restrictions? You must be 14 or older. You must be available to come back for shows later that day if selected. And hopefully, you must be able to sing.

The American Idol Experience is the biggest of the rather small number of new attractions at Disney this year. Recently opened is Toy Story Mania, a tame but fun ride where riders wear 4D glasses and shoot at targets, just like a high-tech carnival midway game. Opening on Jan. 28 is Kim Possible, a scavenger-hunt game for children; participants get a cell-phone type communicator at a stand, then play along by finding spots and clues at Epcot and working to solve a mystery.

In addition, there’s a new rule this year that visitors get free admission to one Disney park on their birthdays — a $63-$75 value. Already, that’s a big hit.

“It’s only the beginning of the year, but it’s already been used by twins and triplets,” says Disney spokesman Rick Sylvain.

But the Idol attraction should be the big draw this year. It will have an extra virtue for audience members.

“It’s not a Disney thing, but it’s even OK to boo the judges if you disagree with their comments,” says Offerdahl.

No booing, however, in the happy-go-lucky rest of the park.

Information courtesy of Detroit Free Press

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