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Who Wants to Be a Millionaire auditions come to Naperville

More than a hundred people stood in line early Friday morning in front of the Hollywood Palms Cinema in Naperville, waiting for a chance to be a millionaire.

Producers of the popular game show, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” have been scouring the country during recent weeks, hoping to line up contestants this fall when the show returns with new host, actor Terry Crews. Friday they hosted daylong auditions in Naperville.

Maria Olivo said she was one of the first to arrive at 2 a.m., but elected to stay in her car for a few hours because it was too chilly outside.

“I think I was actually the first one here, but I didn’t want to wait outside,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be on a game show, and with this being right in my own backyard, I thought, why not? If I won the $1 million, I’d retire and take my family on a vacation.”

Potential contestants were all smiles as they waited for the doors to open at 7 a.m. Cinema staff and other production personnel working for the show greeted anxious potential contestants with music and dancing to energize the crowd and shake them from their early morning grogginess. Producer Liz Harris danced and smiled for the crowd as they entered one of the theaters where a college type testing atmosphere was already set up. Scantron sheets and pencils already were placed on desks.

Harris said the team was in Houston on Monday and Las Vegas on Wednesday. Naperville was their third stop this week.

“We usually visit six cities a year, and we’re looking for people who can pass the 30-question test we give,” Harris said. “We also interview them as part of the screening process. We want people who are representative people of America — people with energy and who are interesting and who we think the television audience will like.”

Harris said she was not allowed to tell how many questions needed to be answered correctly but said contestants would not have to wait long to learn the results.

“We grade them right away, and people usually learn in about 10 minutes what the scores were,” she said. “We’ll have a second round of auditions from noon until 3 p.m. today and then a third round beginning at 5 p.m.”

Frank Wiltse, of Plainfield, had the distinction of being the first in line Friday. He said he arrived at 4:20 a.m. with a stadium seat so he did not have to stand. He said he regularly hosts trivia parties and has been a regular viewer of the show for years.

“I thought that this would be something interesting to try, and since the weather is good, I didn’t mind being out here early and waiting,” he said.

Tim McEvilly, of Crest Hill, was sporting a special T-shirt promoting the show. The former Naperville resident said he arrived at 5:40 a.m. and was surprised at how few people were there to audition.

“I’ve watched the show right from the start when Regis Philbin was the host,” he said. “As far as why I want to try out, I feel I’m a fairly well-read person and also pretty calm on my feet, so I feel as though I have as good a chance as anyone.”

McEvilly talked about strategies he would employ if he became a contestant and “using the life lines correctly” would be critical.

“You have to use those life lines at the right time and don’t guess if you don’t have a pretty good idea or some logic behind your answer,” he said.

Holly Hu, who works as an executive assistant at Hollywood Palms, said they were thrilled to be selected as a site for the auditions.

“Being the first in line today really didn’t matter, as you can see all the people that were here got into the testing area,” she said. “People can still come in throughout the day, and I’m sure there will be a steady stream. We’re honored we were selected to host the auditions, and you can tell people here are going to have a lot of fun.”

Joanne Janetopoulos, of LaGrange, said her decision to come out Friday was based on a number of criteria: from challenging herself to just saying she did it.

“I look at it this way, I’ve got nothing to lose, and it’s going to be a challenge to be able to get up there and be on stage,” she said. “I don’t know how I would deal with the pressure, and I’m not totally concerned about winning any money. For me, it would be just having the experience.”

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