It took three and a half hours on Friday to run through the entire dress rehearsal for the Eurovision Song Contest grand final, which takes place Saturday night. It could have been longer.
Madonna was not in the run-through, although most of the audience, which consisted of locals and much of the 1,200 press in Israel for the event, hoped the Material Girl would show up to practice the two songs she is expected to perform — ‘Like A Prayer’ and a new single ‘Future’ — with American rapper Quavo and a 35-member choir.
It clearly would have taken too much time to set up the 70 steps and elevator that Madonna brought for her show, although she must be rehearsing somewhere.
At least the Queen of Pop signed her Eurovision contract, a fact that was confirmed by Jon Ola Sand, the longtime executive supervisor of the song contest, who said Thursday he was pleased “to finally confirm” that the music icon would join the event.
Madonna arrived in Israel on Wednesday, and will reportedly have four full rehearsals prior to the Saturday night show, which starts at 9 p.m. local time.
“You thought Madonna was actually going to perform today?” host Erez Tal said in Hebrew to the audience. “No chance.”
The 26 Eurovision finalists ran through their three minutes each of music and staging without a hitch.
Hosts Bar Refaeli, Tal, Assi Azar and Lucy Ayoub toyed periodically with the crowd, interviewing stage crew instead of the actual contestants in the event’s Green Room, where delegations wait in between songs.
They spoke in Hebrew to one another in between songs, humming “Say Na Na Na,” a sleeper hit from the dentist contestant Serhat, from San Marino.
The event, which is televised and broadcast to some 200 million viewers throughout Europe, has an unfinished feel in the arena that seats some 7,000 audience members.
Crew members have about two minutes to wheel sets in and out, whether it’s Australia’s Kate Miller-Heidke and her two dancers on their two-story stilts, (which are set firmly into a multi-pronged base) or Miki, Spain’s singer whose song includes dancers set in an all-white, open, two-story box.
Perhaps the longest set up was for the Idan Raichel Project, which performs at the end of the show, while waiting for all the votes to come in.
Raichel and his band and backup singers are all dressed in the voluminous, conceptual clothing of Israeli designer Kedem Sasson, who was also present at the Friday dress rehearsal.
Local fans were most excited when Kobi Marimi, Israel’s contestant, arrived onstage about midway through the show to sing “Home,” his operatically styled solo performance.
Flags waving, they sang along and roared their approval, because there’s nothing quite like hosting the Eurovision on your own turf.