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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Who will be the Masked Singer when the Fox hit comes to the First Interstate?

The touring cast of “The Masked Singer” will try to pull one over on audiences in Spokane on Thursday at the First Interstate Center for the Arts.  (Courtesy)

Let the guessing game begin, Spokane! What local celebrity will be “The Masked Singer” when the hit Fox reality singing competition comes to town Thursday at the First Interstate Center for the Arts?

Could it be tiny and fetching KHQ-TV talking head Claire Graham or perhaps tall and strapping Zag Drew Timme? For the uninitiated, the Fox hit “The Masked Singer,” features celebrities belting out songs while sporting head-to-toe costumes and face masks concealing their identity.

A celebrity panel, Ken Jeong, Jenny McCarthy, Nicole Scherzinger and Robin Thicke, attempts to identify the mystery guest each week in Hollywood. However, the audience is the panel during the touring production of “The Masked Singer” and a local celebrity is under cover.

“The audience loves trying to figure out who is inside the Boom Boom Box (costume) as we call it,” Masked Singer touring director Mark “Swany” Swanhart said while calling from Johnston, Pennsylvania. “You will hear people screaming as soon as the lights go down since a piece of Hollywood comes to town. The live show is an emotional rollercoaster. One minute the audience will be laughing and the next minute they’ll be crying. There’s a lot of energy at the shows. The crowd goes nuts when they discover who the masked singer is.”

Former NFL running back Jonathan Stewart, the Carolina Panther’s all-time leading rusher who was a standout at Timberline High School in Lacey, Washington before playing college ball at the University of Oregon, was inside the Boom Boom Box when the tour hit Charlotte. “Jonathan was so great,” Swanhart said. “That was one of the highlights of the tour. It’s fun to guess who the celebrity is but this show is a three-headed monster.”

Singer Natasha Bedingfield is part of the entertainment equation. The Grammy-nominated entertainer is the tour host and will perform nine songs, including some of her hits, “Pocketful of Sunshine” and “Unwritten.” Bedingfield will also deliver covers, including Prince’s “Purple Rain’ and Coldplay’s “Fix You.”

Bedingfield is familiar with “The Masked Singer” since she competed during season six in 2021. “Natasha is onstage quite a bit and she’s so fun to watch,” Swanhart said. “We have Natasha singing and the characters sing as well.”

What Swanhart is referring to are the characters from the “The Masked Singer” – Taco, Alien, Robot baby, Queen of Hearts, Monster and Thingamabob receive their moment under the lights. If that’s not enough, a few original characters are debuting on the tour, a huge microphone with his microphone minions.

“The characters have fun up there singing and dancing,” Swanhart said. “It’s just a blast that appeals to the children in the audience to the elders, who come out. We’ve pulled off something special.”

However, Swanhart notes that it wasn’t easy for “The Masked Singer” to move from the Hollywood soundstage to the arena stage. “If you tour ‘American Idol,’ or ‘America’s Got Talent’ or one of those type of shows, it’s not difficult to stage it,” Swanhart said. “You take the talent and put it on stage. But with ‘The Masked Singer,’ you couldn’t take the stars out and reveal who they are in the first city. The secret – who is in the costume? – is a huge part of our show. So we had to think about this and come up with something and we did it and it’s worked out well. The reception we’ve received is great. The fans are really into it.”

Fans often dress up as the characters. “You’ll see them in costume like the Queen of Hearts,” Swanhart said. “They’re that into it. It’s an interactive show that runs the whole spectrum. There are beautiful moments, silly moments and some very funny moments. It’s theater and it’s entertaining. It’s an escape and perhaps the most fun part of the show is that the audience should expect the unexpected. How often do you get that at a show?”