"Lizzo's Watch Out for the Big Grrrls" spends time with superstar Lizzo as she breaks in a new troupe of backup dancers, culminating in last September's show at Treasure Island Casino.
But that climactic concert wasn't in the original plans.
The eight-part series, now streaming on Amazon Prime, is largely about preparations for a headlining gig at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, billed as Lizzo's first major performance in nearly two years. But when Hurricane Ida forced the cancellation of the fest at the last minute, producers made the decision to shoot the follow-up concert in the Twin Cities, where the Grammy-winning artist's career really took off.,
"This may be a blessing in disguise," Lizzo says in the final episode, shot almost entirely at the casino just outside Red Wing. "I just feel like it's nice to bring some positivity to a city that supported me so much from day one."
Director Nneka Onuorah scrambled to make the adjustment, eventually using eight cameras and a 30-member crew to shoot the performance in front of 16,000 fans.
"Treasure Island quickly welcomed us and gave us free rein to shoot," Onuorah said in a phone interview. "They really rose to the occasion."
If the women getting the biggest breaks of their lives felt like the casino show was a let down, they don't show it. They make up a song about Treasure Island at the LA airport and pose for selfies during a stroll through Uptown as if they were tourists at Disney World.
To be fair, they also get super excited about the prospect of rice for dinner.
They save their biggest shrieks of delight for whenever Lizzo visits the Los Angeles-based mansion where they co-habitated during three weeks of rehearsals. She pops by as often the next-door neighbor on a sitcom. At one point, she strips down to her underwear and jiggles in the living room. They get a lot of personal time with a star so famous she'll have the rare honor of being both host and musical guest on the April 16 edition of "Saturday Night Live."
"A lot of times in shows like this, the talent is really only participating to amplify their name," said Onuorah, who made her directorial debut with the 2015 film, "The Same Difference," an examination of gender roles within the Black-lesbian community. "But this was personal for Lizzo. We were of the same mindset, that women who are plus-sized keep being put in the background and they need to be in the forefront. When you're doing mission-driven work, you approach it differently."
Viewers will be familiar with some of the series' sequences. Onuorah isn't shy about including how one dancer's ego ends up alienating many of her housemates. Famous names like Missy Elliott and SZA make appearances (cue more shrieks). A few of the women get eliminated along the way.
But Lizzo is so tender in the firing process, it's easy to mistake her ax for a back rub. The only time she loses her cool is when any of her posse accidentally walk in front of her onstage.
The series is unlike to pull the kind of numbers "America's Next Top Model" gets. But it's evidence that Lizzo is going to continue to be a force to be reckoned with. The same could be said for her new batch of Big Grrrls.