With the MTV Video Music Awards only four days away, rehearsals have yet to begin, the run-of-show hasn’t been nailed down, and presenters still don’t know who they’ll be paired with, but producers are confident they’ll be able to pull off the biggest VMAs in the network’s history.
According to set designer Ric Lipson, whose firm Stufish Entertainment Architects has worked on three VMAs shows, the Aug. 27 event at the Forum will feature 560 chain motors hanging in the air. “At a normal rock show, you might hang 150 things,” he tells Variety. The set also features five stages — more than ever before, with three major performance areas and two extras.
Also adding to the grandiosity: the 2017 edition has booked the largest number of performances ever to grace the VMAs stage. Pink, Kendrick Lamar, Miley Cyrus, Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, DNCE, Fifth Harmony, Lorde, 30 Seconds to Mars, Logic, and Katy Perry — who is also hosting — will all perform. Based on early previews, it’s possible Perry may borrow a leaf from Lady Gaga’s book (think her Super Bowl LI performance) and descend from the ceiling to take up her hosting duties — accompanied by a remix of “Also sprach Zarathustra” from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” of course. Perry told Ryan Seacrest’s KIIS-FM morning show that she plans to perform a medley of her songs.
The set is in line with the VMAs’ outer space theme — angular, silver panels bordered by neon lights comprise the bulk of the set, with a mirrored tunnel dividing two main stages that face the audience. Shiny, white catwalks lead out to the presenter stage.
Lipson says the artists are mostly free to bring their own creative designs to their performances, but they have to fit within the confines of the main set, which was cemented in March. As a result, Lipson has had to reject some over-the-top ideas. “There’s a lot of things we’ve not been able to do, not just because of time but because there’s a physical limit to what you can load in and out on a show that’s running live,” he said. There will be some large set pieces, however — up to 40 minutes between stage uses does allow for some grand gestures. As for pyrotechnics? “Lots,” he confirmed.
Performers and other VIP members, including Millie Bobby Brown, Chance the Rapper, and Gal Gadot, will recline in the VIP Village, a raised area between the general seating and standing room only that features roomy seats and, presumably, bar service.
Executive producer Garrett English emphasized how fluid the schedule of the show would be until Sunday. According to English, dress rehearsals will continue until moments before the show goes live.
While English was reticent regarding a Chester Bennington/Chris Cornell tribute, he indicated that Logic’s performance of “1-800-273-8255” will provide an opportunity for audiences to reflect on the rock stars’ passing. He added that, as always, the awards show is a hotbed of spontaneity, and “if somebody wants to make a statement around those things, this is place where we can do that. It’s a delicate matter and one that we want to make sure comes from an artist or a place of passion and support.”