“American Idol” — and just about everyone else in Hollywood — were in a very giving mood.
“Idol Gives Back,” the Fox singing competition’s charity event, was taped Sunday night at the Kodak Theatre and is scheduled to air Wednesday. The star-studded gala kicked off with “Idol” finalists performing Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music,” while performers from “So You Think You Can Dance” twirled in the background.
“Idol” host Ryan Seacrest served as master of ceremonies of the event, which featured several live musical performances and celebrity appearances by Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Peyton and Eli Manning, Jimmy Kimmel, Sarah Silverman, Reese Witherspoon and Brad Pitt.
“Tonight isn’t just about raising money,” Pitt told the screaming crowd. “Sometimes, to help people, we’ve got to travel outside of our comfort zone to really understand another situation.”
One highlight was a duet by Fergie and Heart. They performed a lively but shorter-than-usual rendition of Heart’s “Barracuda,” which featured The Duchess launching into two cartwheels on stage.
“‘Barracuda’ is usually five minutes long, so we were sweatin’ it with the arrangement, and so was Fergie,” Nancy Wilson said backstage. “We had two chances to get it right. The first two times we got it very wrong. We actually did it right when it mattered.”
Other performers included Snoop Dogg and Charlie Wilson, John Legend, Miley Cyrus, Annie Lennox, Mariah Carey, Carrie Underwood, Gloria Estefan and Sheila E. Instead of singing one of her own songs, fourth-season “Idol” winner Underwood opted to croon George Michael’s “Praying for Time.”
“It’s not about self-promoting,” Underwood said backstage. “It’s not about singing your latest single. It’s not about trying to be the most-downloaded whatever on iTunes. It’s all about getting people to call in and do something.”
Celebrities including David and Victoria Beckham, Kiefer Sutherland, Ellen DeGeneres, Jim Carrey and Whoopi Goldberg appeared in pre-taped segments encouraging viewers to make donations. Hillary Rodham Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama also appeared in pre-taped messages.
Beneficiaries this year include the Global Fund, Malaria No More, Children’s Health Fund, Save the Children, Children’s Defense Fund and Make It Right, Pitt’s campaign to help New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina.
Last year, “Idol Gives Back” raised $76 million for underprivileged children. Producers anticipate this year’s event will raise $100 million.