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Oprah Winfrey's Star-Studded Farewell Surprise

ABC, Inc.(CHICAGO) -- An estimated 13,000 Oprah Winfrey fans are getting a first-hand sneak peek at what the talk show queen has in store for the two shows leading up to her grand finale.

Just before 7:30 p.m. in Chicago, Winfrey took to the stage at the taping of her final shows to the tune of the Black Eyed Peas' hit song "I Gotta Feeling." What followed was a star-studded extravaganza.

Winfrey was met on stage by actor Tom Hanks, who told her, "You are surrounded by nothing but love. Thank you for what The Oprah Winfrey Show has meant for our lives."

Hanks continued, "Some might say that pulling off this party is darn near a mission impossible."

At that point Mission: Impossible star Tom Cruise walked out onto the stage.

Following that blockbuster opening, a video of testimonials brought some in the audience to tears. The testimonials included comments from fans who said they were inspired by Winfrey, including a woman whose daughter died in her arms and who said Winfrey's show helped her deal with her incredible loss. Another woman who lost her mother and best friend in a car crash said the show "helped me through the darkest days of my life."

Hanks introduced another superstar -- Madonna -- as a "hard-working mother of four." Madonna called Oprah "a self-made woman who has been on top of her game for 25 years...."

The recording star also said Winfrey's construction of a school in Africa has encouraged her to stay the course in her own effort to build a school in Malawi.

"Thank you for inspiring me," Madonna told Winfrey.

The two shows, dubbed "Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular," are being taped a few blocks from Winfrey's Harpo Studios in Chicago at the 20,000-seat United Center, the city's largest sports and concert venue and the home of the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks. The NBA Eastern Conference finals between the Bulls and the Miami Heat had to be shifted to make room for Oprah.

Eager fans lined up outside the United Center to see arriving celebrities and be there for the end of an era.

In the days before the taping, Winfrey's producers were promising "the biggest names in movies, music and television." The guest lineup was apparently a surprise to Winfrey.

A veritable who's who of the entertainment industry were spotted in Chicago headed for the taping of the show. Among them were Halle Berry, Rosie O'Donnell, Candice Bergen, Beyonce, Dr. Phil McGraw, Usher, Tom Cruise and Kelsey Grammer.

Harpo Productions got more than 154,000 ticket requests for seats to Tuesday's event. Tickets were free; winners were determined by lottery. The shows will air May 23 and 24. The content of the final episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, which will air May 25, remains a closely guarded secret.

Winfrey announced in November 2009 that she would end her popular daytime talk show after 25 years. Legions of loyal fans are also in a state of disbelief that the woman who has been a daytime constant through four presidents, the Sept. 11 terror attacks, two wars and several recessions will no longer be there.

Of course, Winfrey will continue her magazine and her new television network OWN, which launched in January. But it's unlikely that there will ever be anything like The Oprah Winfrey Show again.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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