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One of Israel's biggest music stars will put her commercial reputation on the line next week with the debut of "One," a month-long concert series that represents the most elaborate, extravagant production ever headlined by a single Israeli artist. Rita, the multi-platinum singer with a carefully cultivated "diva" image, will need to sell tens of thousands of tickets merely to make the production break even - a tall order in a country where music albums are certified platinum once they've sold just 40,000 copies.
But any anxiety she's feeling about ticket sales wasn't in evidence last week as Rita posed and performed for selected journalists at warehouse on the edge of Petah Tikva, where the singer and a large team of acrobats, dancers, and visual artists have been rehearsing the show for several months. The raven-haired performer chatted calmly and amiably with reporters between costume changes and photo sessions, pausing occasionally to bestow kisses and kernels of praise on the large supporting team of performers that will back her up at the show.
"One" is being billed by promoters as a "once in a lifetime" experience - a claim that will probably prove true for anyone who doesn't go to more than one of the 27 performances planned between July 5 and August 6. The NIS 20 million production is being promoted in no small measure for its size, and is indeed unprecedented in the scale and level of technical sophistication it will bring to Ganei Ta'aruchah's Pavilion 1 in Tel Aviv. A special 700-square-meter stage is being built for the show, which will feature 70 dancers, 450 costumes, a 300-square-meter screen and some 500 light fixtures to illuminate its performers. Parts of the stage will rise, fall and rotate as the performers work against a backdrop of waterfalls, laser beams and pyrotechnic displays.
Described by its creators as both "grandiose" and "sensual," the show appears to focus more on creating spectacle than a unified dramatic theme, with performers at least week's press event dressed like sailors, geishas, clowns and flappers from the Roaring Twenties. Rita herself will change costumes almost constantly during the course of each evening, with the singer's outfits ranging from a red silk kimono and beaded Japanese crown to a Scarlett O'Hara-style ball gown that will be torn away to reveal a truly mini black mini-skirt.
The show will, in short, resemble a concert by global superstars like Cher and Madonna - a comparison explicitly made by Mitch Sebastian, the British choreographer brought in to work with the show's international cast of performers. Director Hanoch Rosen located two of the show's acrobats during a trip to an international circus festival in Paris, while other performers have arrived in Israel from as far away as Brazil, Russia and Canada. In addition to the star herself, however, the majority of the show's dozens of performers and producers will be Israeli, including its musical producer, Rami Kleinstein, the celebrated local rock artist who's also Rita's husband.
Though "One" will benefit visually from its specially crafted stage, the show's technical requirements mean Rita will not be able to take it on tour with her around Israel - another distinctive feature of the singer's campaign to sell a month's worth of tickets. Attracting audience members to Tel Aviv from outside the country's center may prove a challenge, but the Tehran-born pop star can rest slightly easier knowing she's achieved almost total name recognition among the Israeli population, and may even be able to draw on foreign fans acquainted with the singer from her numerous European and American tours.
An immigrant to Israel at the age of eight, Rita long ago burnished her diva reputation with her operatic voice, captivating pop rhythms and utterly self-possessed stage presence. "One" will feature the "Bo" performer singing a collection of her greatest hits from the course of a wildly successful career, which began almost exactly 20 years with smash sales for her self-titled Hebrew-language debut, itself a follow-up to her breakthrough fifth-place performance at that year's Eurovision Song Contest. In addition to building one of the most successful domestic careers of any Israeli artist, the singer has surpassed nearly every other local star in fashioning an overseas fan base as well, releasing multiple albums in English and touring overseas on a regular basis.