Normally the semi-final shows are a small intimate stage with about 75 people. Not anymore. The stage you will see on Tuesday is the stage you will see all season long...and it is legit!
However....we were told before we entered the studio that the set was still being built.
Walking into the studio, I had no idea what to expect but let me tell you, my mouth dropped. Besides the fact that they truly were still building the set (putting panels on the stage, wiring the band's instruments & the judges mics, mopping the stage...) it looks awesome. Pure chaos but awesome.
Let's start with the stage. From my angle, it seems smaller than last season. There is only a small space between the main stage & the judges tables, with two steps that connect. The judges have a circular area surrounding them but it is small. The only steps leading to the floor are by the middle of the stage. The screen at the back of the stage is smaller, a modern rectangular shape. It still opens up in the middle, but not very wide from what I saw.
(Facing the stage) the band is to the left, slightly hidden but visible. To the right of the stage are 12 white stools, where the boys sat. Directly above & behind them, were 12 silver stools, where the girls sat. On both sides of the stage they have balcony seats (I assume these are the "on stage" seats the guy told us about). Then directly behind the stage (where the band was last year) is an entire seating area (Section X).
Section X: Apparently, they didn't realize until today that those seated in the balcony cannot (or barely) see the stage. Most can only see the judges. If you go to a taping & are seated in Section X, you will receive a voucher to come to another taping & get a guaranteed, stage visible seat.) Oh, they are also not allowed to stand during the taping...in case the fall???
Directly in front of the stage (the former pit area) is the floor seating. 6 rows, split into 4 (or 5) sections. That is right...No more pit. No more swaybots. There are also 3 random seats on either side of the judges table. The family section is to the right of Steven Tyler, directly in front. In the back you have the normal arena type seating but it also has a balcony now. There is a large screen in the back so those in the front balcony can still watch the show. Nigel said it holds about 700 people (I believe the studio held about 450 last year).
Also, there are two pillars on either side of the room, parallel to the judge's table, with the American Idol emblem rotating. The whole stage & balconies are decorated with light up panels. Right above the front balcony is a massive "American Idol" sign. You will not mistake this show for another. Ha.
Seating is literally 360. You'll see at the top of the show. Ryan has the cameras do a 360 around the room. Debbie made us do the wave twice. Once for fun, a second time for Nigel.