It’s not a typical day at the airport. Melanie Brown, the season five “Dancing With the Stars” runner-up, is traipsing around with a camera crew in tow, begging JetBlue employees to croon “Like a Virgin” a cappella.
No need to alert the Long Beach Airport’s TSA crew, or even TMZ — Brown is simply filming a segment for “The Singing Office,” a new tongue-in-cheek TLC vocal competition.
In each episode of this Dutch reality TV import (premiering June 29 at 9 p.m. EDT on TLC), co-host Brown and fellow former “Dancing” contestant Joey Fatone surprise employees at two separate workplaces with impromptu auditions. Today, the 33-year-old Spice Girl is courting everyone from JetBlue baggage carriers to flight attendants.
“It’s not like ‘American Idol’ or ‘Dancing With the Stars,”’ Brown told The Associated Press during a recess from her quest for five amateur singers to make up a new performance group. “It’s not a serious competition. It gives people a break from their everyday lives to have some fun with their co-workers.”
Eventually, her JetBlue crew will have to prepare for a different kind of takeoff. After a weeklong dancing and singing bootcamp with a professional choreographer and vocal coach, the group will perform in front of a studio audience against another team helmed by former ’N Sync member Fatone. Then, the crowd will pick a winner.
During this day of filming tryouts last April, there was no rehearsal, off-camera interference from producers or even a long line to audition. Instead, Brown merely ambushed JetBlue employees on camera with a list of preapproved songs to sing, and the workers responded by unabashedly singing — granted, mostly badly — their hearts out.
“This doesn’t work if it’s overly produced,” said executive producer Scott Sternberg. “The thing about this format is it only works if it’s real and unscripted. It’s more than just a competition. It’s about real people going outside of themselves and performing in front of a studio audience. It can be a very uplifting experience.”
“It was surreal,” Louch, 32, said of auditioning for Brown in front of reality TV cameras. “I’ve wanted to do this my whole life, but an opportunity like this has never presented itself before. It’s all very overwhelming but very exciting. Mel B. threw me off a little bit, but I think I busted it out.”
She did. Later that day, Brown announced who made her quintet — which included Louch — in front of JetBlue spectators gathered in a training room. Leading up to their performance, the group learned choreography and lyrics to Alicia Bridges’ disco anthem “I Love the Nightlife.” They were also outfitted with some custom-made ’70s threads.
“Because we live in three different states, we had to plan our flights to where our practice center was going to be,” said group member Dawn Livingston, 50, of Citrus Heights, Calif. “We had to schedule where we were going to practice. We had to get hotel rooms. It was a lot of work to get us all together to practice. We did the best that we could.”
‘There’s no real beef’
Weeks later in May, the team assembled for their live band-backed performance at Raleigh Studios in Manhattan Beach, Calif. On a stage with lights, cameras and the whole shebang, the JetBlue team competed against another group that Fatone crafted from a field of Los Angeles Zoo employees.
“There’s no real beef between me and Melanie,” Fatone told the AP backstage in his dressing room. “We’re buddies. It’s all just friendly competition played up for the cameras. That said, I hope my groups kick her groups’ butts every time. And I know they will.”
Other matchups include pitting 1-800-Dentist employees against Allen Edwards hair stylists and St. Regis Hotel workers against Anaheim White House restaurant employees. The eight winning teams will go on to compete for $50,000 in a grand finale judged by Taylor Dayne, Jon Secada and choreographer Travis Payne.
“We were just going to do it for fun and the exposure for JetBlue,” said Livingston. “But when they said we could win $50,000 to split, I said, ’I am so there.’ I practiced every spare moment I had. My poor husband is so tired of this song.”