What audiences didn't see on Minneapolis version of 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon'

Neal Justin, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Entertainment News

MINNEAPOLIS -- The most heart-warming moment of Jimmy Fallon's unprecedented performance at the Orpheum Theatre Sunday came when the late-night king slid up next to guest Justin Timberlake to re-enact their Bee Gees impressions in a giddy rendition of "Nights on Broadway."

Unfortunately, the impromptu nod to "Saturday Night Live" came after the cameras had been turned off, the Teleprompter had gone dark and the 300-plus crew members had already started loading up the vans for the long haul back to New York City.

Timberlake and his band also sang "Drink You Away" once the show ended after the Orpheum audience started chanting, "one more song!"

Not that millions of viewers who stayed up late on a school night didn't get enough treats during the live broadcast of "The Tonight Show," which aired 90 minutes after Super Bowl coverage had wrapped.

Dwayne Johnson munched popcorn while debuting a trailer for the upcoming film, "Skyscraper," which looks to be like The Rock's version of "Die Hard." Cast members from "This Is Us" stumbled through the drama's "Big Three" chant. The Roots, the show's invaluable house band, was in an extra jubilant mood as the group originated in Philadelphia. And Timberlake showed off even more musical chops than he did at halftime with the help of special guest Chris Stapleton.

Despite the sold-out venue's lack of booze -- or even diet sodas -- the tightly-packed hour had a party atmosphere, led by late-night's most care-free host who seemed genuinely giddy about his virgin voyage to the Twin Cities.

"You heard it here first. We are moving the show to Minneapolis," he said at the top of the program as the crowd remained on their feet throughout the opening monologue. "Hold on to your tater tots!"

During one commercial break, Fallon took questions from the audience, triggering the inevitable request from one bold audience member for the name of his hotel.

"I'll send you my room key!" Fallon responded to the fans who seemed delighted despite the fact that many had to wait outside for more than an hour and no one was allowed to go to the rest rooms once they got to their seats.

But if the event had a loosey-goosey feel, it's only because those behind the scenes put in the time and energy to make it look that way.

Preparations started a week ago, with a convoy that included four trailers of lighting gear and three trailers of audio equipment. "The Tonight Show" regularly tapes in a studio with a little over 220 seats; the Orpheum crowd was 10 times that size, making it the biggest show since Fallon took over nearly four years ago, holding on to the No. 1 position in overall viewers for most of that time.

Fallon made time to play tourist, biting into a Juicy Lucy at the 5-8 Club and trading barbs with the surly staff at the original Mickey's Diner. He also found time to do an interview at the KARE-11 warming tent, open for Kevin Hart at Target Center and tape a bit for Facebook in which he sampled Minnesota dishes at a Champlin home.

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But he dedicated most of his three days in the Twin Cities to rehearsing at the Orpheum, a venue he chose, in large part, because it was once owned by his musical hero, Bob Dylan.

His impression of the Minnesota icon, a highlight of Sunday's broadcast, was actually taped Saturday afternoon with numerous run-throughs. After each stab, Fallon was the first to suggest they try it again. "30 more take, guys, and we're half-way there!" he joked at one point.

After he was finally convinced they had nailed it, Fallon relaxed a tad with Mike DiSenzo, who had been instrumental in writing lyrics for the updated version of "The Times They Are A'Changin.'"

While Dylan has never appeared on the current version of "The Tonight Show," Fallon told me he had come close to getting him twice, once for a bit in which they would sit together on a roller coaster and listen to new tracks and another in which he would introduce a Dylan cover band, only to discover that Dylan himself was leading the musicians.

I mentioned that Stephen Colbert had done a similar bit with Paul Simon during his first week as host of "The Late Show." Fallon looked at DiSenzo. "Well, I guess we can't do that now."

Fallon said Saturday he would most likely have a little case of the butterflies before the curtains rose the next night. But he always does. Overall, he was convinced the show would go without a hitch -- even if the screaming baby that almost disrupted the Dylan taping were to make a return appearance.

"We also have a camel and a guy in an Abe Lincoln suit," he said. "We're ready for anything."

Even, it turned out, a Bee Gees reunion.

(c)2018 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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