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Overture, curtain, lights, this is it... Junos night

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Tegan and Sara rehearse on the Juno Awards stage at the MTS Centre Friday.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Tegan and Sara rehearse on the Juno Awards stage at the MTS Centre Friday. Photo Store

It's like staging a big-time touring rock concert, except for one small detail.

"A rock show is something that's done over and over again," says Karel Noordover, technical producer of The 2014 Juno Awards.

"Every box that goes on the truck is in a specific spot; everything comes off in a specific order, and is taken by specific people to specific spots. That's why they can get it (set) up in four to six hours.

"This is a one-of-a-kind show; it's never been done before. Everything is custom-built... Unlike a rock show, we have no template to go by. It's very, very different. When we come to the arenas (in each year's host city), they think it's like another rock show, until we come in with a lot more stuff and set up in ways that they've never seen before."

Noordover, along with supervising producer Lindsay Cox and Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences president Melanie Berry, met with the media earlier this week during the load-in of sets, lighting and technical gear in preparation for Sunday's big show at MTS Centre.

It's a massive undertaking, hauled in by 15 semi-trailers and requiring up to 85 local crew members and 127 TV technical crews from five different provinces. In all, nearly 4,000 person-hours of toil and sweat will have been invested by the time Juno hosts Serena Ryder, Johnny Reid and Classified take the stage for Sunday evening's live broadcast.

Setup for Sunday's show began early Monday, with the bulk of the heavy lifting finished by Wednesday so technical tweaks and run-throughs could begin on Thursday. According to Noordover, one of the unique challenges of putting on the Junos is that there are no opportunities to try out the stage and lighting before they're assembled in the host city.

"There is actually no testing," he says. "This is the test. This has never been built anywhere else before. There might be a few individual pieces that are difficult that we'll mock up in the workshop, but for the most part, this is the first time we've ever set it up."

The event's organizers are united in the view that the decision several years ago to transform the Junos into an arena-sized show that's staged in a different city each year was absolutely essential to keeping the music-industry showcase relevant.

"There have been massive benefits," says Cox. "We've seen both the show and the awareness of the show really grow. When this was a soft-seat show back at the O'Keefe Centre (in Toronto), it was very industry-centric... When the show moved into arenas and started moving across the country, it allowed it to become a show for the fans.

"It's not just an industry show anymore; it's a show for everybody -- the fans are there and they get to be up-close to them, like at a rock concert. There's a very different vibe, and now we have the enthusiasm and excitement from each (host) city represented on the show."

In co-ordinating this city's second Junos show, Noordover says the relatively small footprint of the MTS Centre did not create any unique headaches for the load-in crew.

"The biggest thing is space," he explains. "When you come in with 15 trucks of stuff, it's always a challenge. We're not a rock show, which means we haven't done this over and over again, so we have to figure out how to get our stuff in and move it around so we can do the setup. We have to find places to put things.

"Actually, this venue is pretty good for that. But could we use more space? Sure."

With the details in the arena all looked after, there's still the issue of the outdoor portion of the show -- the inevitable red-carpet procession, which, given Winnipeg's endlessly inhospitable winter/spring season, might be a bit unusual by conventional awards-show standards.

"Once you get into the arena, it'll be a pretty warm and cosy and electric place," says executive producer John Brunton of Insight Productions. "But is frigidly cold weather ideal for a red carpet where beautiful women could be wearing sexy outfits and walking without parkas? No, it isn't.

"But on the other hand, Canadians are used to this, and it makes this a little bit unique. What you see on a Canadian show is not what you'd see when people are walking a red carpet in southern California. In Canada, sometimes there's a little bit of down involved."

 

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 29, 2014 G3

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