The Masked Singer‘s ninth season kicked off on Wednesday night (Feb. 15) without a hitch, and had a legendary entertainer in their midst — or in costume, if you will.
After performing a passionate rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “When You’re Smiling,” The Gnome was one of the two masked singers to be placed on the show’s chopping block. Judges Ken Jeong, Jenny McCarthy, Nicole Scherzinger and Robin Thicke had no clue who the man underneath the costume could be, guessing everyone from Robert De Niro to Dustin Hoffman and Tony Bennett. But the surprise the judges got was much larger than they anticipated.
The Gnome was unmasked to be none other than Emmy, Golden Globe, Tony and Grammy winning entertainer and comedian Dick Van Dyke. “It was real dark in there,” the 97-year-old said after host Nick Cannon asked him what it was like being The Gnome. “You can’t see anything. I just love that they thought I was Robert De Niro. I didn’t know Robert De Niro could sing, to tell you the truth.”
‘The Masked Singer’: How to Watch & Stream Season 9
Jeong, McCarthy and Thicke stood up on the judge’s table to give Van Dyke a standing ovation, while Scherzinger was overcome by emotion and started crying during the applause. “I love you so much. The whole world loves you so much. It’s an honor to have you on our show,” she told him through tears. Jeong added, “You are one of the reasons why I got into comedy. You are comedy. You are our childhood. Greatest reveal ever.”
After the show, Van Dyke spoke withPeople and revealed that going into the program, he was certain none of the judges would have been able to guess his identity. “I had never even seen the show when they asked me. So I checked it out and it looked like a lot of fun,” he shared. “I was positive they wouldn’t be able to guess who I was. And I was right!”
Also unmasked on the season premiere of The Masked Singer was the Mustang. Mustang took the stage for a rendition of Whitesnake’s 1987 classic “Here I Go Again” and Rihanna’s “Diamonds” for the battle round. The dark horse was unmasked to be none other than “A Little Bit Stronger” singer Sara Evans.
Speaking with Billboard before her elimination, Evans said she did not inform her family that she would be competing on the singing competition. “I wanted my kids to be surprised and I didn’t trust my mom not to tell people,” she explained. “I’m going to tell my mom and siblings and everyone tonight, like around five or six o’clock and ask them to watch.”
As for Evans’ choice to sing Whitesnake, the song choice was a result of production decisions and last-minute changes behind the scenes.
“I was going to be on a different episode, doing ABBA Night. But then someone had to drop out and the producers asked me if I would fill in for that person and take their songs to be on the first episode of The Masked Singer instead,” she explained. “So I already knew the Whitesnake song. Of course, everyone knows it, but I got it at like 11:30 the night before we had to film it, at the last minute. Everyone was really appreciative, though, and I ended up having so much fun singing the Whitesnake song, especially.”
Watch Dick Van Dyke’s Masked Singer reveal above, and Sara Evans’ unmasking below.
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