Frank Micelotta/Fox/PictureGroup
Tanner Stransky
April 14, 2011 AT 06:37 AM EDT

There are nights where the Idoldome feels like a bundle of nerves, as determined by the state of the wary contestants, so much so that the entire audience, by sheer proximity, feels jittery, too. And then there are nights that are completely the opposite, where the studio positively bubbles over with effervescence and confidence. Last night was blissfully the later, as the Idoldome brimmed with the power of the warblers — singing their favorite “Songs from the Movies,” led by Paul McDonald’s upbeat “Old Time Rock and Roll” (pictured here) — on the warpath toward becoming the next American Idol. Who can say what it was? Maybe everyone was buoyed by the exuberance of being in the presence of luminous judge Jennifer Lopez, who we were reminded more than once, was just named People‘s Most Beautiful Woman? It’s possible. (I know I always am buoyed by her presence, especially when it involves a glittery mini dress complete with frontal tu-tu, like it did last night.)

Truly, though, it wasn’t a particularly eventful night on the scene in the dome, but this reporter still dutifully sat in the audience, observed, and took copious notes about the stuff that went down that you, our dear viewers who watched on the telly, might night have seen. (You know, things that the luminous-as-J.Lo EW staffer Annie Barrett might not have noted in her genius recap.) So, heres’s a rundown of what went on between commercials and while the camera was trained on something else, everything from the (apparently) delightful banter between the hilariously paired famous guests Elvira and Rob Reiner (?!?) to Steven Tyler’s continued role as the Ladies Man of the Idoldome.

• Elvira + Rob Reiner (+ Hank Azaria?) = Random (and Fascinating)! I noticed Elvira as soon as she waltzed into the Idoldome in her signature look, straight from the Wicked Witch of the West collection. (Not sure it’s possible to miss her.) And at first glimpse, all I could think was: What is she doing here? So random. But then when she was seated next to When Harry Met Sally director Rob Reiner, the randomness of her presence became about ten-billion times more random.

The delicious moments of having Elvira and Rob (and Simpsons voice actor Hank Azaria behind them, as only became apparent to me after Ryan pointed him out on TV!) around were three-fold. First, when judges Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler sauntered over during the first commercial break to take a picture with the pair. How priceless! (If Jennifer Lopez went to say “hi,” I surely didn’t see it.) Second, more of then not, Elvira and Rob were chattering away throughout the show. Like, what could they have been talking about? How much she loved Reiner’s recent When Harry Met Sally sequel spoof from FunnyOrDie and why she, too, wasn’t included? (Her inclusion would have been perfect, considering it was all vamp-tastic and she’s, well, all goth or whatever.) Okay, so probably not. And third, during the commercial breaks, the crowd warm-up guy likes to play silly games. And Elvira played right into that, when he was polling the audience for their ages. “Anyone in their 80s?” he asked. Elvira’s arms quickly went into the air!  While you may wonder if that could indeed be true (as I did), a quick internet search reveals that Elvira’s only 59 years old.

• The Judges Mysterious Huddles: Randy, Jennifer, and Steven are always bantering during stolen moments at the shows, but there were several instances tonight that that found the three of them huddling and chatting. One can only wonder what they were talking about. On more than one occasion, it seemed like they had even asked executive producer Nigel Lythgoe — who usually makes his way over to the judges during commercial breaks — to shoo away. I love the idea of them either talking specifics about the show or — on the other end of the spectrum — dropping secrets to each other between takes.

• Lauren Alania, Belle of the Ball: If Lauren intended to court the teen vote, she succeeded. The screaming throngs went nuts for her version of Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb.” Heck, even Jennifer Lopez was bobbing her head the whole time, while Steven was shaking his. In fact, Lauren sort of dominated the whole night with her generally upbeat attitude. When the contestants were being shuttled around by the production staff, she was always the one they were having to pull into line because she was usually too busy waving to family or fans. After the show ended, she did a cute little ballroom dance with stage manager Debbie and then proceeded to carouse with her family until, again, production whisked her away backstage, much later than the other contestants.

• Frozen J.Lo: This probably only interests me because I’m infinitely obsessed with her, but I realized that Lopez didn’t make a move during the whole show. (Hence why, as I mentioned above, she didn’t go say hi to Elvira.) Randy and Steven regularly got up to talk to other people around the studio, but J.Lo stayed put in her chair. Even when hubby Marc Anthony came to chat with her, she simply rolled over a bit in her wheelie chair to talk to him, rather than bothering herself by getting up. How cool.

• Pimp Posters: My two favorite posters of the evening were for Scotty McCreery and Stefano Langone. Scotty’s said simply this: “Scotty: Prom?” And Stefano’s shouted: “Stefano’s Future Girlfriend!” The girls are going wild for these two heartthrobs, if you couldn’t already tell.

• Super Staging: Did all of last night’s cool staging transfer to the television screen? I’m talking about the smoke during Casey’s song; Scotty’s elaborate set-up; the brass band during Jacob’s performance; all the backup singers; James’ guitar guy. It was very cool — and extremely professional seeming — live.

• Haley Reinhart, Charmer: Since her performance started with her back pressed up to the judges’ table, Haley was down bantering with Jennifer, Steven, and Randy during the commercial break, well before her performance began. And, of course we’ve all seen her confidence grow over the past few weeks, but I was just struck by how sure of herself she was with the three imposing figures while she was waiting to begin. She seemed to be joking with them and just having a good time. It was a heart-warming sight to see. Between Belle of the Ball Lauren and Charmer Haley, the girls still seem to have a chance in this competition.

• Jacob Lusk’s Fan Club: When you’re sitting in the crowd, it’s sometimes difficult to spot the contestant’s family and friends, usually because most of the audience is on their feet, singing, clapping, and cheering. But Jacob’s toned-down performance didn’t elicit much standing, besides that of his dedicated fan club, his family. The brigade stood and sang with him the whole time, which felt extremely sweet. I couldn’t take my eyes off them! The rest of the audience joined them on their feet, of course, when Jacob got a standing ovation.

• Beware of the Strobe Lights: Before the show launched, the warm-up comic gave the audience a chance to exit the Idoldome if anyone couldn’t deal with strobe lights. The warning didn’t make too much sense to us until James Durbin got on stage and did his strobey metal thing. And then…yah, it really made sense then. Because, wow, my eyes are still sorta spotty from all that.

• Steven Tyler, Ladies Man: It’s no secret that judge Steven Tyler is almost more popular with the Idol crowd than any of the singers, but tonight that was especially clear, as Tyler reserved a hefty few minutes after the taping to lavish himself amongst the throngs of cougars who wanted a piece of him. I have mad respect for any man who’s willing to thrust himself into a crowd of middle-aged ladies screaming “I love you Steven!”

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

Read more:

‘American Idol’ recap

‘American Idol’ on the scene: ‘Idol’ coaches talk the Top 8

‘American Idol’: Top 8 Power List!

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