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A front-row, socially distant seat to sound check for the 2020 Billboard Music Awards


COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the entertainment landscape, but producers of showbiz awards shows have learned to make do. Live audiences? Statuette hand-offs? So 2019.

Following well-received, socially distant presentations of the Emmys, the Academy of Country Music Awards, and the MTV VMAs this summer, the Billboard Music Awards will try its hand at a virus-free show on Wednesday, as Kelly Clarkson hosts live from the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.

In anticipation of the broadcast, Mark Bracco, executive producer at Dick Clark Productions, detailed the many safety protocols behind the Billboard Music Awards, which will feature performances from John Legend, Demi Lovato, BTS, Luke Combs, Bad Bunny, Brandy, Doja Cat, Post Malone, and many more. Garth Brooks will receive the Billboard ICON Award.

“We do not have an audience at the Dolby,” says Bracco. “But we’ve created a very cool, immersive set that allows us to engulf the whole venue.”

What’s a typical day of rehearsal been like under COVID protocols? “I fill out a questionnaire online, asking if I have any COVID-19 symptoms,” explains Bracco. “I get to [the theater], they take my temperature, I do a health check. I show my [COVID] test results saying the virus was not detected, then I get a wristband. That’s what everyone who comes inside has to do.

“Generally when we do these shows we do 16 to 18 performances in three hours. Because of COVID, it’s really not feasible for us to move 16 to18 acts in and out of the stage and follow protocols. Several performances will be live [at Dolby], others will be pre-taped from the Dolby stage the day before. We’re not hiding the fact that there’s no audience, but we’re gonna have a little fun with it.”

A security guard clad in a mask stands near the artist’s entrance at Dolby Theatre the day before the 2020 Billboard Music Awards.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

The scene inside the Dolby Theatre

The scene inside the Dolby Theatre during rehearsals for the 2020 Billboard Music Awards.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Country music star Luke Combs at the Dolby Theatre the day before the 2020 Billboard Music Awards.

Country music star Luke Combs hands off a hand-held face shield after talking to members of the press the day before the 2020 Billboard Music Awards.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Camera operator Dylan Sanford in full PPE inside Dolby Theatre during rehearsals.

Camera operator Dylan Sanford in full PPE inside Dolby Theatre during rehearsals.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Singer Kane Brown on his way to rehearsals

Singer Kane Brown on his way to rehearsals. Brown along with Swae Lee and Khalid will perform together for the world premiere of “Be Like That.”

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Director Alex Rudzinski at a bank of monitors during rehearsals the day before the 2020 Billboard Music Awards.

Director Alex Rudzinski at a bank of monitors during rehearsals the day before the 2020 Billboard Music Awards.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Stage manager Gary Napoli with Luke Combs

Stage manager Gary Natoli chats with Luke Combs during rehearsals for the 2020 Billboard Music Awards.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Luke Combs masks up with his custom PPE during the rehearsals.

Country music star Luke Combs masks up with his custom PPE during the rehearsals.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Luke Combs rehearses the day before the 2020 Billboard Music Awards at the Dolby Theatre surrounded by personnel in PPE.

Luke Combs rehearses the day before the 2020 Billboard Music Awards at the Dolby Theatre surrounded by personnel in PPE.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)





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