Perhaps other than the cast and crew of the popular summer must-see show “America’s Got Talent,” few seem to be as happy as Jeanne Goldschmidt about initial tapings of the hit program’s 16th season at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.
“We are thrilled to announce the return of ‘America’s Got Talent’ in Pasadena for the sixth year,” gushed Goldschmidt, executive director of the Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Goldschmidt is clearly elated, and maybe a bit relieved, because the Civic Auditorium and the Pasadena Convention Center have suffered economically since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic at this time last year,
Perhaps the best parts of the booking, at least from Goldschmidt’s perspective, are that “America’s Got Talent” not only brings attention to Pasadena from the show’s millions of fans globally, but the show’s production here is welcome by local hotels, restaurants and businesses.
On March 28, the city’s history-drenched nearly 90-year-old 3,000-seat Civic — host to countless concerts and plays, as well as events such as the Emmy Awards, the NAACP Image Awards, the People’s Choice Awards, “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance” — will once again be the backdrop of the hit variety competition. A contest modeled on past talent shows in which not just singers and musicians but participants of any age and location with any form of talent — singers, dancers, comedians, contortionists, impressionists, jugglers, magicians and ventriloquists — can try to win America’s vote and the show’s $1 million prize.
Creator and Executive Producer Simon Cowell will be back this season, as will comedian Howie Mandel, along with Pasadena resident and program host Terry Crews. Also back for Season 16 are award-winning actress Sofia Vergara and Heidi Klum, who took over those jobs last year for actress Gabrielle Union and dancer Julianne Hough.
While many productions shut down at the start of the pandemic last year at this time, scrapping the season was not even considered, Jenny Groom, NBC’s executive vice president of alternative programming, told USA Today.
“We wanted to figure out how (we could) do this in a safe manner and for fans to feel like they still get the show they love. We also talked a lot about how this is this show we feel America needs right now. They need to feel like they can escape,” Groom said.
As a COVID precaution, acts to be televised in June were performed in March with only the four judges, along with Crews and crew members, in a virtually empty auditorium.
“As bad as it is, you always have to find a solution to get back to work,” Cowell told USA Today via email. “I have sympathy for so many people in this situation, but if our show is an example, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s different, but hopefully it will still be as popular.”
Still, Vergara told the national newspaper via email, “We definitely missed the audience and their energy. At the beginning, when I was just getting into the groove of the show, I looked to them a lot to see how they were responding to the acts,” Vergara said in an email message to USA Today. “I know some of the acts were nervous about not performing in front of an audience, but I think they all did really well given the circumstances.”
“There were no masks back then. There was no social distancing. It was right before all of that happened,” said Executive Producer Jason Raff. Cowell, Vergara and Mandel watched auditions in the auditorium, joined for some by Eric Stonestreet, who was filling in for an ailing Klum who later revealed testing negative for COVID-19.
When it comes to his gig, Crews, a Pasadena resident, said he does not miss the commute to the West Side. In fact, Crews recently told Pasadena Magazine that he loves the Civic Auditorium, recalling the awards shows that he worked on and attended there.
It was after Klum fell ill, though not from coronavirus, that the show started filming in front of an empty auditorium. Crews, a former pro football player, helped the contestants maintain their focus. These were unusual circumstances, calling for unusual preventive measures, he told Pasadena Magazine.
And yes, he, said, “It’s been difficult, as it has for everybody, but it’s necessary.”