Tuesday night the circus came to town.
A slick, updated version.This one was a three-screen circus.
With Paula Abdul as their ringmistress, some 12,000-plus Delta Center fans were dazzled by an eye-opening, ear-popping multimedia song-and-dance extravaganza that would have made Fred Astaire proud.
All the Barnum and Bailey elements were there: flying trapeze dancers, performing amazing terpsichorean tumbles while suspended by wires; MC Skat Kat and his cartoon counterpart, rapping and scratching out the old feline softshoe (softpaw?); and to top off the spectacle, two stiltwalkers.
The Delta Center stage was a two-level structure resembling scaffolding, with a pair of large video screens on each side and another massive screen on the second-level that spanned the width of the stage. Poles at each side of the set transported Abdul and her cast up and down, while the drummer, keyboardist and three background singers traveled in elevator cubicles.
The good-natured crowd, heavily laced with elementary and junior high students, passed the lengthy wait for Abdul after the opening act of local band Cafe Society by playfully making "waves" among the various sections of the arena.
Sandy resident Mitzi Mackay and her 10-year-old daughter Suzanne, a student of Ballet Etc. dance studio, were typical of the crowd.
"Suzanne has every one of Paula's posters. She's been taking dance lessons since she was 3 and loves to put on her (Abdul's) tapes and dance," Mackay said.
"It's my first rock concert, and it's a little loud," she added.
A more jaded approach to Abdul-anticipation came from Jarica Watts, age 11.
"My dad dragged me here," she said.
Abdul's dramatic grand entrance immediately calmed the chants for "Paula, Paula," coming none too soon.
Descending on a bed of lights, the pop-queen was singing and dancing before touchdown, joined by a bevy of dancers and the two stiltwalkers. If glitches were going to occur, the "Under My Spell" tour got a biggie out of the way, and soon.
One of the stiltwalkers immediately began to experience balance problems as he moved about while suspended on a cable during the opening number, "Spellbound." He fell, landing precariously, and was helped, shaking, offstage.
Ever the trouper, Abdul continued to dance with ease through the other stiltwalker's long legs, and segued into a rendition of the driving dance hit `Straight Up," a crowd-pleasing sing-along.
The rest of the evening moved from big, bright and breathtaking to quietly soulful ballads, then up again for a rousing finish and double encore. Abdul's vocals were all live, with many months of vocal coaching giving an obvious boost to her singing abilities.
Throughout the 90-minute, highly theatrical production, video images were displayed above and around the energetic princess of pep, whose rise to fame began after being "discovered" as a dancing cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The fast-paced series of Busby Berkeley-like glitzy production numbers won over the audience members, who cheered with wild enthusiasm . . . when they were able to catch their breath.
This was a warmer, friendlier evening than the usual concert fare, with Abdul reaching out and kneeling to touch hands and accept roses from admiring fans.
All the high-tech lighting tricks and smooth staging were not by chance. From Abdul's high-tech "Vibeology," which featured dancers clad in weird foam-rubber costumes and conehead-inspired hats, to a leather-laced production of "U" (penned by Prince for Paula), every minute had been computer-programmed and rehearsed for months before Tuesday night's show.
The only other noticeable glitch was a recurring blank portion of the large video screen being shown above the set.
An audience favorite, the current single "Blowing Kisses in the Wind," was representative of the amazing technical and choreographic thrills experienced during Abdul's Amazing Traveling Roadshow.
For "Kisses," Abdul stands on a platform 25 feet above the stage, while blue skies and wispy cloud videos are projected around her, wind machines lifting her long hair. A ballerina floats below, doing somersaults and upward turns while her male counterpart flies on double wires up and around the set.
Remember the lavish dance sets and grandeur that were part and parcel of the old MGM musicals? Paula Abdul has successfully revived that razzle-dazzle for the '90s with her remarkable brand of energy and originality.
Let's hope her circus comes to town again. Soon.