During the five-hour live show of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, hosts Ryan Seacrest and Jenny McCarthy make it all look so easy, seamlessly guiding viewers through the celebration until the ball drops at midnight.
In reality, it takes a lot of teamwork weaving the artists, talent, as well as nearly a million revelers through the evening, creating a visual tapestry on television that is exciting as it is to be there live.
From the Green Room, to the streets, to the well constructed stages and a staff that keeps everything moving like clockwork, Billboard takes you inside the biggest party of the year with a behind the scenes report. See below for our ten standout observations, with a few extras thrown in for good measure. Happy New Year!
1. The broadcast may start at 8 p.m., but as early as 3 p.m. the city is closed to traffic and you can only get through with a proper pass. People begin lining up on 6th Street just past Radio City Music Hall, as the New York Police Department begins to direct the crowd into viewing sections until Times Square is filled and ready for action. Revelers then get free goodies throughout the night, including red scarves symbolizing the celebration of the Chinese New Years and foam pink hats from Cosmopolitan and Cover Girl. At one point, even red balloons are passed out.
2. The ABC Times Square studios on 44th Street are ground zero for the production team. The studio for Good Morning America is transformed into the backdrop for New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, where Seacrest will later shoot production segments as the show wraps.
3. The Good Morning America Green Room is stocked with food and drinks, while guests of the artists mingle with Miss America Kira Kazantsev and New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings, who chose to hang out in the Green Room because of its close proximity to a platform just outside the building, where Seacrest will do interviews in addition to his hosting duties.
Jenny McCarthy about to go live, photo by Michele Angermiller
4. Seacrest isn’t just hanging out in the studio. The affable host is everywhere throughout the evening, never missing a beat as each segment airs. Hours before the show airs at 8 p.m., both Seacrest and McCarthy are out amongst the crowd rehearsing introductions in front of the cameras.
5. From the 44th Street Studios, it’s a two block walk to the Muse Hotel, where Idina Menzel, Magic! and Florida Georgia Line are all prepping for show time. The hotel’s location is perfectly situated in the same area of the New Year’s Rocking Eve stage, and guests of the groups are escorted to the stage for each performance from the hotel.
Florida Georgia Line chilling out backstage, photo by Michele Angermiller
6. Menzel sound checks just after 5:30 p.m., where even the fake snow is tested to make sure everything works. When she takes the stage at 8:26 p.m., everything goes as rehearsed, and Menzel-clearly not bothered by the cold-delivers “Let it Go” to a frozen crowd as blue and white confetti are shot into the risers. As she completes the song, the singer gets emotional, caught up in the New Year’s Eve excitement as she is escorted from the stage to head out to the Hard Rock Cafe for a meet and greet with fans. Menzel is barely off the stage when the crew begins cleaning up the confetti and preparing the set for Magic!
Idina Menzel about to perform, photo by Michele Angermiller
7. Magic! Is looking quite dapper for New Year’s Eve, and lead vocalist Nasri reveals that for the first time ever the group chose to dress in matching yellow outfits, just for the occasion. Nasri makes it a point to stop and pose for pictures with fans as he is being lead through the crowd after sound check. Later, the group walks in unison to the stage to perform “Rude” and “Let Your Hair Down.” Checking out the show is New Year’s Rocking Eve talent producer Mark Shimmel, who keeps the schedule of events close. “Everything always runs on time, ” he said. And it does.
8. Did you know the countdown is practiced all night in Times Square? Every hour on the hour the crowd is lead through a dry run of the countdown before being teased that it’s only “three hours until midnight,”-and so on. Assisting with the countdown at one point is the Broadway cast of Aladdin, who also read confetti wishes mixed in with the confetti that will be released at midnight. Even though it was 21 degrees and felt like it was 10 degrees, nobody in the crowd seems to mind.
9. Florida Georgia Line surprise a fan, Mike, with a photo opportunity on the side stage before performing a medley of their hits. The band’s biggest hit, “Cruise,” elicits a big response from the crowd, who are screaming every word.
10. Newlywed McCarthy plays cupid as she introduces the Mastercard Priceless Surprise and a happy couple not only gets engaged but gets a trip to Maui.
11. Taylor Swift is more than excited to be present on New Year’s Eve. Right after her on-air interview with Seacrest, the star made a point to say hello to the crowd in the audience risers with a hearty, “Hi Guys!” She’s a brave girl, braving the cold and performing in a crop top during “Shake It Off.” After her performance, Swift is swiftly escorted back to 44th street to Military Island, where she will assist with the countdown and don the ever-so-chivalrous Seacrest’s coat. As the countdown continues, Swift can’t help herself, turning to the crowd in the back of the stand and excitedly jumping up and down as the city is awash in confetti. After the countdown, she is whisked away to a car just down the street, taking her into the night.
12. As the crowd disperses, Seacrest warms up inside the Times Square studios, where he navigates the rest of the show from New York, Miami, Nashville and Billboard’s Hollywood Party in Los Angeles, weaving in segments from McCarthy and Fergie, who performs “Big Girls Don’t Cry” from the West Coast. He is later joined inside by McCarthy and the entire production crew of the show, including The Hollywood Reporter’s Fred Bronson, one of the show’s writers. McCarthy’s husband, Blue Blood actor and NKOTB member Donnie Wahlberg, hangs out taking it all in stride and posing for a few pictures. Outside in the cold, fans play in the confetti, which will be all cleaned up by the next day.
And the clean-up, photo by Michele Angermiller