It’s hard to imagine a celebrity eager to perform anonymously. But that’s exactly what’s happening when Fox unveils its new show “The Masked Singer” Wednesday.
Garbed in outlandish costumes that obscure their identity, famous stars will compete on the stage with others equally anonymous, while a panel and the audience try to blow their cover.
The show, a gigantic hit in Asia, pits 12 “singers” against each other — two performing opposite each other in segments. One singer will be eliminated each week and will, at last, reveal their identity.
The contenders aren’t all singers, either. According to host Nick Cannon, contestants on the show have a total of 65 Grammy nominations, 16 Emmy nominations, 16 multi-Platinum Awards, four Super Bowl titles and four stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The studio panelists include Jenny McCarthy, Robin Thicke, Ken Jeong and Nicole Scherzinger, who oversee the performances and try to guess who the secret singer is.
Jeong, who starred in his own sitcom, “Dr. Ken” on ABC, says he wanted to participate because the Asian version is his mother’s go-to show.
“I’m Korean, and this is my mother’s favorite show in Korea. No joke,” he says. “So when Fox invited me to be a part of this show, it was as simple as that. My mom was like, ‘You have to do this show.’ And she showed me all these YouTube clips. It’s like billions of views on these YouTube clips. And I was like, ‘I’m in.’ ”
Cannon, who’s hosted shows like “America’s Got Talent” and “Wild ’n Out,” also watched the clips. “I said, ‘That looks like a good time.’ I get to wear my crazy shoes and outfits and don’t seem out of place.” he says.
The entire production is shrouded in secrecy. Even the families of the participants don’t know they’re one of the masked singers.
The costumes are so intricately designed that there’s no chance of identifying the person behind the mask until the unveiling. And each entertainer gets to pick their costume, says Izzie Pick Ibarra, the show’s executive producer and one of the creators of “Dancing with the Stars.”
“We had an amazing costume designer, Marina Toybina,” Ibarra says. “She would sit down with the singers when they first signed on to do the show, and offer them up a variety of different insects, mammals, flowers, whatever.”
While they are amazingly deceiving, the costumes are also difficult to manage, says Ibarra.
“Some of them had very limited vision with the mask on. And your peripheral vision basically disappears. So trying to then perform on stage with lights shining, wearing a mask and an incredibly kind of heavy costume, it took some skill to do that.”
McCarthy says the talent behind the elaborate costumes might be executing a routine they’ve never done before.
“They could be an actress that we never knew had a singing voice,” she says. “A lot of them looked like they’d been doing this for their whole lives, and we found out this was the first time they’ve done it on stage.”
Elaborate measures have been taken to protect the identity of the entrants. No one knew, say producers — not even the crew.
McCarthy said she “went around pressing cameramen and everyone, being so nosy, going, ‘Do you know?’ ‘Do you know?’ And no one knew.”