Season 10's first show with a studio audience isn't exactly live. To work out the Top 24 kinks a little while before the Top 12 (or is it 13? Or maybe 15?) kicks into gear, the producers tape these early episodes without the usual time constraints or production pressures. There's still a schedule to keep, but it's not as unwavering as next week's episodes, when the competition really gets going.
Of course, this was no ordinary episode. For most everyone who walked into the studio on Friday, Feb. 25 was greeted with a brand spanking new set. The vibe: theater in the round. A circular stage with the audience positioned on all sides -- behind the giant "American Idol" logo in the back, tucked on the side among four opera box-like balconies, two of which were used by the contestants -- girls up above, guys down below - and the other two which seemed well-suited to VIPs.