NEW YORK It's two days until ground zero, when artists, a few lucky fans and music biz bigwigs will descend on the Metropolitan Opera House in New York for the 18th annual MTV Video Music Awards. While the night of the show is traditionally characterized by glitz and glamour, the feeling in the air Tuesday, the first day of rehearsals, more closely resembled the frenzied first day of a high school stage production than the controlled chaos the VMAs have come to represent.
The sweeping stage flaunted its massive video screen and raised circular podium, though all its other accoutrements remained under construction. Producers paced to and fro, pointing and shouting instructions while occasionally scratching their heads waiting for inspiration to strike.
The red velvet interior of the mostly empty opera house was swarming with MTV executives, stagehands and a dozen TV crews hoping to give their viewers a sneak peek at Thursday's illustrious event. While E!, "Extra," CNN and "Access Hollywood" to name just a few did their best to make their curt interviews unique, the most exciting Q&A exchange came courtesy of this year's host, comedian Jamie Foxx, and his willing subject, Alicia Keys. The clown prince of the media circus on Tuesday (September 4), Foxx hijacked an "Entertainment Tonight" microphone and chatted up Keys who's up for Best New Artist and MTV2 Award honors for her "Fallin' " clip while the two strolled the aisles of the famed high-brow hall.
"Alicia Keys is at the forefront of it right now," Foxx said after the interview. "To me, she's the most original. Strip away all of the hype, and to see Alicia do her thing is something else."
Keys and Foxx occupied the first two scheduled slots of the VMA rehearsals: Foxx by giving his opening monologue a final run-through, and Keys by taking the stage to practice the song she'll perform Thursday night.
The past year has been one of firsts for the soulful young pianist. Her debut album, Songs in A Minor, entered the Billboard 200 albums chart at #1 when it was released in June, and the LP's first single, "Fallin'," is currently the most played song in the country. What Keys lacks in experience, she makes up for in moxie, as the prospect of performing in front of a worldwide audience of millions is anything but daunting to her.
"I can't say that I'm nervous," Keys said. "I'm excited, so I know there is going to be a lot of adrenaline pumping through the veins. And that may cause a couple of little butterflies, but once I'm onstage, it's a wrap. It's on from there."
Missy Elliott, 'NSYNC and Britney Spears were also scheduled to practice their performances Tuesday, however, their rehearsals were closed to all press outlets.
Catch all the sizzlin', star-packed VMA action direct from Miami on August 28. MTV News' preshow kicks things off at 6:30 p.m. ET/PT, followed by big show at 8 p.m.
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