Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan first rehearsal...

First up in this years season is Azerbaijan - several people on stage in triangular stage props. White lighting and clothes - though as yet we do not know if these will be the stage clothes.
Sound in the press centre is rather quiet so cannot really judge the vocals on this first run through

More to come on second run through but I am suitably impressed so far

Semi-final 1 dress rehearsal 1 - live blog from the hall: to be updated!

Desiree on Mon, 05/08/2017 - 13:49

In a few minutes the first dress rehearsal for semi-final one will start and we just heard that the opening act will be done twice. I'm live in the hall where I will keep you continually updated, so please refresh from time to time to read the latest news!

The start is delayed for a few minutes. Spain, Italy and UK will also perform.

And we're off! just 5 minutes later than initially planned We start with women wearing traditional gear and Ukrainian folk music in the background. Then a dancer on stage to be joined by Monatik, who proves to be very versatile: rapping, sing and dancing a very modern song that could've been a nice participating entry. Unfortunately I haven't been able to catch his name yet. I hope to update you on that after we have seen him again.

After the second run his name is not mentioned, but instead he introduces the hosts who are in casual clothes for this rehearsal. Some introductory speeches later the lineup for the semi-final is shown on screen and the voting is explained. No surprises here.

Next: song 1 from Sweden!
Post-card: Stills from Robin and his dancers, rehearsing, motor riding, getting ready to perform.
Performance: The lights seem to flicker a bit in the beginning. First time I notice it, not sure it's meant to be like that. Once again a very solid performance so it's bound to at least qualify and possibly do very well. On the other hand, there is still the issue with the 'OK' sign he makes with his hands that means something different in other countries.

song 2: Georgia:
Postcard: Rehearsing with Anri Jokahdze, running in the park, getting ready to perform and walk on stage (which seems a common thing already for all countries).
Performance: There's a delay in the start of the Georgian performance, so stay tuned! A solid performance by Tamara, who has no need at all to hold back.

song 3: Australia
Postcard: Isaiah in Melbourne and in a car, getting on a stage, watching the stars.
Performance: In the hall Isaiah really seems a bit overshadowed by his own images on the screen. A very good performance again. No further issues here.

song 4: Albania
Postcard:Running, singing with a band, doing sports, working on her dress and making the heart sign with her hands.
Performance: Vocals a bit shaky in the beginning. Only yesterday evening she was going all out in the Euroclub.
The long note is not working completely as it should so she sings it lower to save herself. Will be something to look at tonight and tomorrow evening.

song 5: Belgium
Postcard: Blanche playing the piano, reading, doing press conferences, autographs.
Performance: Blanche wears a different dress now - in black! so her nickname nnow no longer fits her outfit. The black dress is very dark, as the staging is as well. I know the white one was criticised a lot but I prefer it to what she wears now. The high parts near the end still sound very weak. However, a good reception in the hall.

Song 6: Montenegro:
Postcard: Slavko in the park, in a theater.
Performance: The visuals of Slvako while he lays on the floor have changed now. In blue, no more bright pink lipgloss. Looks a lot better and a bit less over the top. Slvako still fills the stage on his own, Could be better vocally. I am quite worried about its chances but I still enjoy this song a lot after a few ballads.

First break: Hosts on stage (minus greenroom host Timur). App mentioned. Timur in the greenroom speaking with who performed.

Song 7: Finland
Postcard: Norma John working/sitting together, walking in a building, shopping sunglasses, playing the piano.
Performance: Dry ice. Looks beautiful at the start. Vocally it seems not as solid as we have heard before. Big applause though.

Azerbaijan second rehearsal

Desiree on Thu, 05/04/2017 - 12:13

What I most noticed seeing the first run in the hall is that there is a hidden backdrop that hardly gets noticed on screen (because the camera focuses on the box DiHaj stands in): an overview from a city. I thought it was actually not shown at all, but seeing the rewinds on the screens here in the hall now, I notice that is not correct. I hadn't noticed it before, so it's either new or just doesn't catch the attention. For those in the hall the performance is less interesting to watch than it is on screen.

Vocally Dihaj is on point, but I still have my doubts on the long high notes in the chorus. The second part of the performance is also a lot weaker visually. There's probably a whole concept behind this but I don't think people will get it just from seeing and listening to the song once.

Day one catch up review...it's not live....but then again some days I wonder if I am (a)live anyway....

Day one

Well the most important tasks for me, always, on day one is to actually get into the press centre in good time, and hunt the interview lists. So The Boss and I duly arrived at around 7.45 in the morning to make sure we were in a reasonable place in the queue to get in - first!

The only real issue we had with this was that actually entering the building ended up being so confusing, with two queues (one for S accreditations and on for P) but in the end it all worked out as we were the first to get in. Which leads onto task two. Hunt the interview lists. This is a huge thing for me each and every year, there are never lists prepared in advance, the poor volunteers never know what I am talking about and it often takes about 20-30 minutes to even get them to prepare some sort of list for the press wanting to book interviews. When you bear in mind that the first rehearsal is on stage at 10, the press centre opens at 9 and there are other things to get on with, this can cause a little raising of the heart rate!
Not this year though - amazingly, wonderfully and to my deepest delight - the lists were already prepared in advance….who knew that Ukraine could be so organised???? So well done on that!

So all in all the day started off really well in the end….computers all worked, wifi and LAN were fantastic speeds (Thanks Swedish Tecchie guys) and not too many hordes of massed fans running around like school girls on a day out from St Trinians. All going so well so far yes??? Err well no, cos that’s when rehearsals started on the big screens….

Now we know that every year there are sound issues, always with the first run through. So if we know there are always problems, then surely the organisers should know the same? And maybe, you know, test things first? Nah, that would be too simply. So we were left with watching the big screen and attempting to listen to the sound coming from the arena next door. Which was fun. Anyway maybe I am being too harsh and expecting too much? Still it was all solved pretty quickly and left with the delight of the Swedish rehearsal.

Blogging is not really part of the things I get to grips with at the Eurovision each year, most of my work revolves around processing background stuff, like video, checking the work of the rest of the team, meeting with delegations to check for interviews, actually doing the interviews and generally just annoying people so I never really get a lot of time to watch the screens….but I do hear snippets of enough of the day to form a judgement on whats Fabulous, Great, Ok, and OMFG what the hell was that??? So here was my day in running order

Sweden Ok
Georgia Great
Albania Ok
Australia Ok
Belgium OMFG what the hell was that?
Montenegro Fabulous
Finland Fabulous
Azerbaijan Great
Portugal - - - Can’t really judge as he wasn’t singing but still find the song really dull…

Team Kaz has 2 full time and some part time English bloggers so if you want detail on who wore what, who did what to whom, and that Azerbaijan step Ladder please check them out….

The other huge part of my day was dealing with interviews, and we managed to get 4 out of 8 done yesterday with three being mine, Sweden, Albania and Montenegro. No real surprises with any of these as I’ve met them all before, apart from Slavko, he does get really in depth when you get him away from his on stage persona and get him talking on a level about some deeper though provoking stuff. He’s actually super intelligent and opinionated and kinda the guy I have a secret admiration for in the way he behaves and carry himself. Lindita is also the same, again get them talking about stuff away from Eurovision and underneath the surface gloss are some really deep individuals

I missed the interview with Finland, but I know that these two guys are the same as Slavvie and Linnie above, in that respect. Georgia’s Tamara seems a little off the wall, but in a totally great “don’t mess with me or I will destroy you” kinda way….still you can judge for yourselves on the clips. Robin was the one I still am trying to find a connection with every time I meet him though. I am still not sure if he is being reserved due to shyness or a lack of sleep or a lack of something else entirely but I will keep trying to find out what his buttons are and such them hard

All in all it was actually a great day, as “Eurovision Day One”s go, it all worked, we left the press centre on time, and still got to the restaurant in time to have food drink gossip with friends and actually look forward to Day Two without coming out in a cold sweat

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Today's highlights and tomorrow's expectations - an overview

Desiree on Sun, 04/30/2017 - 21:13

Some last thoughts on today's first rehearsals. Overall there haven't been that many surprises I think. Everything started and ended perfectly on time.

Obviously a lot was expected from Belgium but I also think that the earlier performances already did a bit to lower those expectations. Georgia and Albania once again delivered great vocals (even though the latter's experiments weren't such a great idea in my opinion). Vocally Australia was also really good but his face all over the screens is a bit much for me.

That leaves Finland and Sweden who hardly changed anything to their performance and did a really good job, especially considering it's just a first rehearsal. Montenegro was the most extravagant act of the day and I would've been surprised with anything else. It also really stand out with its draw. Last but not least Portugal, I find it hard to say something about it as another singer can leave a completely different impression. I think it will be mesmerising on the night, especially if flags don't ruin the view as they kinda did with the Dutch performance of 2013 (Anouk - Birds).

So on to tomorrow where we will see the last songs from the first semi. I think there's a lot to look forward to. A few of them have been around quite a lot with promo-tour performances but for others like Greece and Armenia it will be really interesting to see the staging as they either were hardly performed live or didn't really show a lot in the previous performances. I'm also quite looking forward to Iceland. Before the national final it was quite the favourite already, then many people were disappointed but with a different staging that might all change again. And then there's Moldova, obviously not the masterpiece of the year but one of the songs that always gets me in a good mood, so I can't wait!

All in all another exciting waiting for us, see you tomorrow!

First rehearsal Azerbaijan

Desiree on Sun, 04/30/2017 - 14:12

Only two rehearsals left today with Azerbaijan being one of them. Dihaj just had her first run. During a big part of the performance she's singing against a black wall with some words in white (from the lyric) written on it. There's also a ladder used as a prop, with a man on it, which is a thing I totally didn't get.
Vocally it sounded fine except the long notes in the chorus hurt my ears most of the times. Hoping for improvements in the next runs!

The second time I noticed this wall I mentioned is actually more some kind of box, and she also writes on it. Later the box is brought down and the man on the ladder with the horse mask takes off his mask. At this point the backings become visible as well. Still not sure about the soundmix, the backing vocals are a bit too loud in my opinion but these kind of things are often to be arranged in later rehearsals.

I must say the first part of the song when the camera is zoomed in on the box looks really good on camera.

Some words on the outfit: Dihaj is wearing a long beige rain coat that she takes off in the last part to reveal a black / golden top and black pants. I have the impression the backings didn't wear their full costumes, but they will most likely be in black with long coats as well.

Mamma Mia The Party

Andy on Sat, 05/14/2016 - 02:31
A tasty Mediterranean buffet is placed on your table. Glasses are being raised across the room. Everything happens on a magical evening in several acts filled with singing and dancing, daredevil stunts, Greek Gods, flirty waiters, and perhaps a Zorba and an Ouzo or two. The rest is up to you. Because no evening is like any other. And no one knows how it ends. It all depends on where ABBA's songs take us! But one thing's for sure: you can count on a Summer night city. The temperature at Nikos Taverna is always set on Greek high summer, regardless of season. Ready to make history? Opa!!

Björn Ulvaeus invites everyone to "Mamma Mia! the Party" in Stockholm. Mamma Mia! musical is being turned into party held in the Tyrol restaurant at Gröna Lund, a few steps from ABBA The Museum. Building on ABBA tunes, one of Swedish greatest musical export successes ever, Björn Ulvaeus captured the warm, happy atmosphere of the musical and movie Mamma Mia! that have conquered millions of people around the world and turned it into a party. Planning for the production has been ongoing for 2 years with first sketchy details revealed in April 2015.

ESCKAZ had the opportunity to talk to Björn Ulvaeus who is the executive producer and one of the initiators of Mamma Mia! the Party, which premiered in Tyrol on 20 January 2016. At the age of 70 Björn who calls himself "pop culture entrepreneur, investor and lyricist", is full of energy, has no plans to retire but not to get back to the active composing or stage activity either. His vision of the new show is that guests, restaurant staff, musicians and artists together create the party in the Greek tavern environment from the island of Skopelos, where the Mamma Mia! the movie filmed, with olive trees, fountain and scents of the Mediterranean. With the help of the ABBA songs they write that particular evening's history there and then. With Mamma Mia! the Party are linked the two big attractions: ABBA the Museum and Gröna Lund amusement park, creating a new public magnet at Djurgården. For this purpose, legendary Tyrol restaurant has been transformed in 2015 by set designer Bengt Fröderberg into a Greek tavern.

"I sat in the audience at theaters around the world and experienced the special warm, happy atmosphere that occurs when the first notes of the musical sounds out over the auditorium. And when people stand up and dance and sing at the end of it. That is the feeling I want to recreate at the Mamma Mia! the Party", says Björn Ulvaeus

Watch Björn Ulvaeus speaking about Mamma Mia! the Party and Eurovision:

Mamma Mia! the musical has so far been seen by 55 million people around the world. The musical premiered at the Prince Edward Theatre in London on 6 April 1999. A total of 49 stagings in 16 languages were produced ​​and it is still being played in 8 productions in three different languages. The film based on the musical premiered in 2008 with actors like Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Amanda Seyfried and Stellan Skarsgård. Last year Eurovision accredited press and delegates were invited to attend for free one of the best world stagings in the show Mamma Mia! in Raimund Theater with Ana Milva Gomes and Madeleine Lauw.

Today, ESCKAZ team has been invited to attend the English version of Mamma Mia! the Party. The story is not same as in Mamma Mia! the Musical, it takes place after Mamma Mia! the Movie was filmed on Skopelos Island and evolves around Greek tavern owner Nikos and his new Swedish wife Kicki (who was working on The Movie production and decided to stay in Greece) who came up with the idea to organize every evening a Mamma Mia Party in their tavern while serving great food for the tourists, executive chef of the tavern Maggan, Nikos' daughter Konstantina, Kicki's son Adam and the Romeo & Juliet story between the latter two, complete with the balcony scene. There is also plenty of room for improvisation and audience participation, if the guests are up for it (and if you celebrate your birthday musicians will also play and sing a special version of Happy Birthday for you).

Mamma Mia! The Party interview with Abba's Bjorn

Upon entering ‘Nikos Tavern’, the guests are greeted by Greek Gods bearing trays of Ouzo shots, before being shown to their tables and handled a local gossip newspaper "Skopelos News" with details about the cast, crew and menu. Inside Tyrol, the temperature is always set to a Greek summer evening, so dress accordingly (cloakroom in the restaurant is free of charge). An astonishingly detailed set includes the frontage of a Greek souvenir shop and a backdrop of screens showing a real Grecian sunset, which changes throughout the evening while surround effects such as the sea, crickets etc bring alive the Grecian backdrop of the popular Abba movie, Mamma Mia! Vines trail the crumbling walls, fountains dance and the air is heavy with the scent of olive trees and jasmine. As the evening progresses, the light gradually fades out as the sun goes down and candles begin to flicker. While the guests enjoy their food, the show takes place around them. There is no stage, instead the cast delivers their dialogue, sings and dances between the tables on the restaurant floor creating complete 360° experience.

The music is still made of ABBA songs, but again the tracklist is different to the Musical, while some lyrics have been reworked by Björn Ulvaeus himself.
Act 1:
Kicky & Nikos: Thank You For The Music; Maggan: Bang-A-Boomerang; Adam: Take a Chance on Me; Konstantina & Adam: I've Been Waiting for You; Kicky: When I Kissed the Teacher; Kicky: Head Over Heels; Kicky & Konstantina: If it Wasn't for the Night; Maggan: Hole in Your Soul; Adam: On and On and On; Konstantina: So Long; Adam & Konstantina: Honey Honey; Maggan: Andante, Andante
Act 2:
All: Waterloo; Kicky: S.O.S.; Maggan: Mamma Mia; Konstantina: I Let the Music Speak; Adam: I'm a Marionette; Konstantina: The Winner Takes It All; Adam & Konstantina & Kicky & All: Kisses Of Fire
Act 3:
Konstantina: I Have A Dream, Anders and band: Does Your Mother Know,
Medley: Kicky & Lotta & Bella & Adam: Summernight City; Konstantina: Voulez vous; Kicky & Maggan: Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!; Lotta: Super Trouper; Maggan: Mamma Mia; Kicky: Lay All Your Love On Me; Konstantina: Tiger; Roberto & Adam: So Long;
Encore: Dancing Queen

Get some taste of the music and practice your lyrics knowledge with ABBA originals:

The striking-looking performances are made on the lesser-known songs, "I'll let the music speak" and "I'm a marionette," which offer spectacular circus acrobat numbers with Talang show finalist Elin König Andersson, leading to the grand finale of the story itself with "Kisses of Fire". At this point, the only regret is that the story so quickly has come to the end - but the organizers predicted such reaction and is prepared a third act for all the visitors, which although isn't developing the storyline, but none-the-less is full of ABBA songs.

The evening ends with Greek Zorba dancing (for which "I Had A Dream" seems the perfect fit), the tables then are moved to transform the venue into the nightclub with the dance floor and then, there is another performance that includes a medley of songs of Abba. Those guests who had not enough of 4 hours of party during the show itself can continue discoing with the DJs even after the artists have left on the recorded soundtrack of the show, other music of ABBA and dance hits.

The stars of "Mamma Mia! the Party" are actors Michalis Koutsogiannakis as Nikos, Anki Albertsson as Kicky, Sussie Eriksson as Maggan, Mercedesz Csampai as Konstantina, Patrik Hont as Adam, Linda Olsson / Sofie Gunnarsson as Lotta, gymnast Elin König Andersson as Bella, four Greek ladies altering role of Grandmother: Sigrid Anastasoglou, Hrissoula Damianidou, Nikoletta Kereklidou and Maria Saivanidou and musicians Robin Svensson (Rasmus, piano & guitar), Mija Folkesson (Gittan, guitar & bouzouki), Daniel Bingert (Lasse, bass & mandoline), Pablo Cepeda (Roberto, drums & percussion) and Michael Blomqvist (Anders, guitar & bouzouki).

Mamma Mia! the Party cast

Sussie Eriksson starred as Karin in Swedish production in Mamma Mia!, Michael Blomqvist, being many times leader of huskören of Melodifestivalen, was choir member for Mamma Mia! The Movie and also performed in Swedish stage production as well as Anki Albertsson, who was Donna in Gothenburg staging and backing singer at soundtrack recording. Pablo Cepeda twice competed in Melodifestivalen. Michalis Koutsogiannakis is known for his participation in film adaptation of Millennium saga.
Mamma Mia! the Party produced by Eventum in cooperation with Björn Ulvaeus, scripted by Calle Norlén, Björn Ulvaeus and Roine Söderlundh, with latter being also director of the show.

The whole lineup of actors and musicians is absolutely exceptional, competent and professional and are perfectly casted into the roles. Highlight of the show, however, is no doubt performance of stunning Swedish/Hungarian/Russian singer Mercedesz Csampai (watch out for her emotional rendition of The Winner Takes It All and her literally hanging-in-the-air performance of Voulez-vous in the final medley) who previously starred in various international music productions including "Tanz der Vampire" in Berlin and "The Phantom of the Opera" in Moscow.

Mamma Mia The Party press photos

Tickets for the shows can be booked at ticnet.se. At the current moment on sale are shows till April 2017. You should absolutely buy tickets in advance, because the shows are usually sold out. Tickets cost 1340.00 SEK (around 145 Euro) per person may seem quite high at the first sight, but remember it includes dinner, and thus is in average the same as the cost of the quality concert attendance followed by a good dinner. You can also purchase combined package including admission to ABBA The Museum for 1535 SEK. Time of arrival varies on day of the week and is found on your ticket, doors remain open for appr. 45 minutes from listed time.

If you plan to visit Stockholm this summer, the Party will be in English between July 27 to August 21, the other days Swedish version of the show is played (with songs still in English).

The party will last for at least four hours (of them the show itself around hour and a half). Capacity of the restaurant is 450 visitors. Minimal age: 13 years, aged 13-18 are welcome accompanied by adults. Tables are reserved in the order they are booked, so there is no option to choose them. If you come in a large group you may occupy a full table for 8 or 10 people, otherwise you may be required to share a table with other ABBA fans. The plan of the hall is made to ensure best possible experience for all tables, but largest portion of action takes place around the fountain, left balcony is also used a bit more often than right one. Groups bigger than 15 persons can be booked via e-mail: ticket@mammamiatheparty.com, also can you request there (not less than a week before the show) to be seated together with your friends who booked tickets separately.

A three-course mediterranean buffet is included in the ticket price, and is served at your table. The buffet is produced by Samuel Cabrera and his culinary colleagues, in consultation with Jonas Dahlbom, the new creative culinary manager at Gröna Lund. Dishes are served prior to the beginning and in the breaks between the acts.

Mezes: Tzatziki, Semi-dried tomatoes, olives and anchovies, Hummus, Greek farmhouse bread
Starters: Greek salad, Garlic-fried octopus with lemon and rosemary, Fish stew made with hake, tomatoes, and lemon served with sage butter
Main dishes: Lamb racks with pistachio crust, beef and chevre cream, Loin of pork skewers with roast potatoes, Lamb sausage
Dessert: Coffee, ouzo-flavoured semolina cream, pistachio crust, yoghurt pannacotta with honey and almond biscuits.
Options are available for those with gluten or lactose intolerance, or with seafood allergies. Vegetarian or vegan menu can also be prepared if notified by mail in advance. Drinks, except from welcome one, are extra and paid at Tyrol, and, of course, there are alcohol-free alternatives.

Find complete menu here.

Producers of the show do not rule out international expansion of the project in the same way it has happened with Mamma Mia! the Musical (London production is at the talks already), but at this moment it is exclusively available in capital of Sweden Stockholm. The easiest way to Tyrol restaurant is by Djurgårds ferry from Slussen (last ferry back is at 23:50 everyday and at 00:30 on Saturday), or bus 67 to Liljevalchs/Gröna Lund (last bus back at 00:20), or tram 7 from Kungsträdgården to Djurgården (last one at 01:45). More on transport options: here, route planner here. Tyrol has its own entrance at Allmänna Gränd and is located on the other side of the street from the ABBA The Museum and Pop House.

By the way, Swedish entrant Frans was guest of Mamma Mia The Party last week:

Amir, Samra, Juri, Zoe and Italian delegation have also visited the event during these weeks.

The world premiere of Mamma Mia! the Party earlier this year was a historic occasion as all four ABBA members, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, attended and posed together for the first time since Mamma Mia! the movie presentation and just second time after the supergroup split. "I don't think that (on-stage) reunion will happen, but who knows (what future brings)", surprisingly no so firmly as usual says Björn in ESCKAZ interview.

ABBA_David Sica, Zap PR for MMTP5

For us the show definitely has been the ultimate highlight of the two weeks in Stockholm with amazing music performances and finally a chance to have a proper dinner. Finally, we would like to thank Stephanie Bonn from Zap PR for her assistance in coverage of the event.

Semi One predictions from Daniel and me

Mike;

Finland No
Greece No
Moldova Maybe
Hungary Yes
Croatia Yes
The Netherlands Yes
Armenia Yes
San Marino No
Russia Yes
Czech Republic Yes
Cyprus Maybe
Austria Yes
Estonia Maybe
Azerbaijan Yes
Montenegro No
Iceland Yes
Bosnia and Herzegovina Yes
Malta Yes

So someone will miss out from my predictions, and sadly I think it will be Austria

From Daniel;

Finland No
Greece No
Moldova Maybe
Hungary Yes
Croatia Yes
The Netherlands Yes
Armenia Yes
San Marino No
Russia Yes
Czech Republic Yes
Cyprus No
Austria Yes
Estonia No
Azerbaijan Maybe
Montenegro No
Iceland Yes
Bosnia and Herzegovina Yes
Malta Yes

Some slight disagreements here, but more or less we agree this year

Anyway what the hell do we know.....though we usually get 7-9 out of 10

Press Conference for Azerbaijan

Liza on Fri, 05/06/2016 - 15:56

Sanja tells that she is still a little bit ill. She sounds better than at the first rehearsal, but she is still not fit as a fiddle. This might explain, why I thought she was singing: "Gonna take a miracle to save my song". Sanja asked the press, which suit they prefered her to wear. There was one vote for the white suit, and a big majority for the gold cat suit.