An unprecedented show for the people of Saudi Arabia, with a young girl taking center stage and representing the kingdom’s younger generation, was held at Riyadh's King Fahd stadium on Jan. 16, 2020.
The event, attended by thousands of enthusiastic Saudis, was the grand finale of the Riyadh Season, a huge entertainment festival attended by millions over the past three months.
The show, titled "Leila, the Land of Imagination" and incorporating dancing, music and fireworks, was about a 10-year-old girl who explores the history of Saudi Arabia and dreams of a future without prejudice.
The event was the brainchild of Italy’s Marco Balich, responsible for more than 30 ceremonies for the Olympic Games. His all-female creative team worked inside and outside the kingdom for over a year and a half to create an unforgettable experience for the audience.
For Saudi entertainment authorities, it was a musical and fireworks extravaganza — the culmination of a festival with more than 200 artistic and sporting events in 12 areas of the capital. Many foreign visitors also participated.
Balich, the executive producer, called it a "moment where energy is blossoming in Saudi Arabia. Women are now driving and taking positions and this new energy is transforming Saudi Arabia into a land of opportunities for the younger generation."
"2020 is an amazing year for Saudi Arabia because things are actually physically changing," Balich said. "Abaya [is] not compulsory anymore, music is everywhere, concerts, entertainment, 500 movie theaters. And this ceremony, this big show in the stadium summarizes, in a way, this kind of energy."
Creative director Angela Alo led the team that put the show together, involving more than 400 performers. Saudi Arabia is changing, she said, and the show represented that change. The journey of the main character Leila, whose name means "daughter of the night" in Arabic, was the result of wild imagination, she added.
Balich also discussed the young Saudi girl.
"Leila is a young girl that has a 70-year expectancy in front of her, of a country that is changing rapidly," he said. "I believe that she can be the symbol of this gracious and gentle revolution that is happening in this country."
Najua, a young female dentist in the audience at the stadium, said it was the first time she had seen such a show, adding it was "really fantastic."