This is it… Well, almost.
With less than 36 hours to go before the actual semi final, today is actually already one of the most important days of this week for the participants taking part in that first show.
A lot of firsts happen today, but they are pretty much a template for what will happen tomorrow. In the afternoon of course, there's the first dress rehearsal. For the producers and technical crew, this is the first time they'll see the product in its entirety. All the months of planning, designing, creating, editing, tinkering and worrying culminate in this first of three run-throughs. The crew, directors and presenters will need to practise on getting the transitions perfect. That is the key to success for a fluent show. From the operators in the video control gallery to the stage-hands wheeling on an off the stage props. Of course the entire crew will have had years of experience, but still. For them it is like presenting a new born baby to the wider world and hoping everyone else will be as enamoured by it as they are.
For the three hosts it's a good indicator to see if they need to do some more cramming. We're just hoping they keep their spontaneity and natural flair. We're still a bit hung-over from the rhyming in 2001 and the consensus is that this presenting style should never be repeated again. Ever.
If the artists haven't done their homework by now, it will never happen. From the reports during rehearsal week, we can say that pretty much everyone has brought at least something to the table. To the best of their abilities, we can hope. Some could've maybe cranked it up a notch, others may have "over-egged the pudding". No use worrying over it now: This is what they brought and this is what they will have to work with. The first run-through is the final check for the delegations to check if their talent is finding the cameras and if the final adjustments and remarks made during the second technical rehearsal have had the desired effect. If you thought of changing the lighting plan now, think again: The dress rehearsals are mainly there for the technical crew and producers. Pretty much the only change the delegation team can make at this point, are with the on-stage talents themselves. But it's probably better not to stress over it, because the artists need to focus on tonight's dress rehearsal.
Because it is in tonight's second run-through that half of the battle can already be won. The juries of the sixteen countries taking part in this semi-final, plus France, Spain and Denmark will have a say about who they think worthy of going through to the final on saturday. These will of course count towards the 50/50 jury/televote score determining the qualifiers. It used to be that delegations sometimes forgot the importance of this dress rehearsal, but by now one would expect each of them to be on the ball.
Tonight is all about either damage limitation - if you feel you don't have a jury-friendly offering - or… well, damage limitation - if you feel you don't have a televoting-friendly offering. Either way, it's still important that the artists feel they've given their all in preparing and rehearsing and that it shows tonight. It would be nice if that performance in this second dress rehearsal gives them that assurance and confidence to tackle Tuesday's live-show head on. They will know if they have done enough at around 23h00 CET tomorrow.
Until all of that, from and in between dress rehearsal 1 to the aftermath of semi final 1… it's all going to be a long wait. This could be the key factor for an artist taking part. How are they dealing with having to sit around and wait? There's only so much facebook-checking one can do, and even that may not be advisable. Nerves can fray and there have been examples before, where an artist was completely drained before even belting out the firs note. Other unfortunates were so pumped up and ready to give the performance of their lifetime that they overdid it and screamed their way to failure. Stage experience will give the more seasoned performer an invaluable advantage here. Although nowadays, with pop-idol-hardened artists like Denmark's Basim taking part, we see a generation of young performers that already have had their fair share of that. And they seem less fazed by it.
It is strange to think that the television show tomorrow is only a two hour television sprint, whereas behind the scenes, taking part in it is clearly more of a two day marathon. And that's just the semi finals. Either way today signals the start of what could be a life-changing week. It's important to remember to enjoy the ride. Even if it's waiting around for it to get going.