She says she's had no time to work out since her Idol adventure began. Instead, keeping her motor running means catching shut-eye when she can. And the occasional artificial boost. "I had a can of Red Bull the other day, my first in three years," she says. "I swear, I'm still wound up from it."
The special autograph session over, Eze and David Cook begin the long underground walk to the stage for soundcheck. Cook is carrying a massive framed certificate, showing that a star has been named after the Idol winner.
"Cool, huh?" Cook says.
Eze fires back, "Of course, that's likely a theoretical star."
Cook laughs. "Yeah," he says, "just like me."
Suddenly, a human horn sounds.
"Beep, beep," Smithson says. "Jump on the Carly Express."
Smithson has commandeered a large electric cart. Malubay hops on, followed by others.
"My father-in-law has these carts at his place in Florida, and I love to drive them," Smithson says. She hits the pedal.
It's difficult to tell if those are squeals of delight.
At rehearsals, humor helps lighten the mood
The group is on stage, rehearsing their final number. Time to ham it up as technicians check sound levels.
Kristy Lee Cook, White and Malubay lie on their sides, lifting one leg to the beat in a mock workout. Johns runs up and down a small center-stage staircase as if he's at the gym. Next, they all start doing stomach crunches, laughter drowned out by the thumping beat.
About 90 minutes left before showtime. The group scatters. Eze disappears with his portable video game, deep into a round of Pokémon. The women start hair and makeup, while Johns parks himself in front of an office whose makeshift sign says, "Chiropractor," a useful fixture on a tour that's seen its share of scrapes and bumps (David Cook's knee, Johns' elbow).
"It's been hard to stay fit," Johns says, lamenting his inability to hit the tennis courts. "But I will say, being a celebrity doesn't suck."
He's referring to the tour's stop in Portland, Ore., home of Nike, which gave him a VIP tour.
Johns brought along David Cook, and the two walked out "with a lot of swag," Johns says, pointing at his sneakers. "Roger Federer's personal line of casual shoes. You can't buy these," says Johns, eyes alight. "I don't know how long I'll be a celebrity. Might as well enjoy."
Cook ambles by. The two communicate in a shorthand usually reserved for siblings, all nudges, winks and quips.
"We have the same sense of humor," Cook says. "But, ultimately, this tour isn't about me or David (Archuleta) or Mike, it's about saying thank you to all these people who voted for us."
Showtime — 7:10 sharp — nears. A few Idols dash back to the commissary for dinner. Fried chicken and king crab legs. Plates are light.
Closer to the stage, White and Smithson harmonize while getting their makeup applied. David Cook and Castro both are on cellphones, Cook pacing incessantly while Castro squats near an equipment dolly. Neither are in a rush because they don't come on until the second half of the show.
Nearby, a man dressed as a Pop-Tart tugs on his cartoon gloves, then poses for a picture with the crew before heading out to clown around with the crowd. Castro does a double take.
It's showtime, and the livin' ain't easy …
Eze kicks things off with a blast of soul, which Malubay stretches into diva-ish R&B. Johns switches into rock mode, predictably crushing with Aerosmith's "Dream On", his Idol swan song.