Monday, September 21, 2009

The Brittany Spears Circus Tour

The Universe works in mysterious ways. Things fell into place, on my birthday no less, and I had the great fortune to get the VIP treatment at the Brittany Spears concert in Orlando, Sept. 1st. Arriving early we were cordially greeted and escorted up to a catered area decorated with gorgeous circus costumes and huge Big Apple Circus posters. ʻMighty Mikeʼ DJʼd the affair and other dancers and circus performers mingled and posed for pics. Everyone was very kind and accommodating creating a welcoming feel and offering a glimpse into their world. From there we were shuttled down in the elevator for a backstage tour into a maze of hallways filled to the brim with boxes and props, neatly organized and labeled. The logistics are a masterpiece in themselves. As we were led past catering, through a dressing room, makeup room and my favorite, the wardrobe area, it had the feel of a side show as the curtains were pulled aside and we stared into their world. The performers and tech people we came across were all calm and friendly as we invaded their space. The unsung heros of the show, the riggers in their harnesses, sheepishly grinned and laughed with us at jokes made by our genial tour guide, Mike, getting their own 15 seconds of fame and taking us gawking bystanders in stride.

From there we were led onto the arena floor and got a peek under the stage at the tightly organized quick change area. The stage itself is a star, and a mechanical and engineering marvel innovatively designed so that every seat in the house gets a front-on view at moments throughout the show. A large ramp leads up to the first of three elevated rings. One large center ring with two smaller end rings on either side. A center elevator in each end ring and 7, count them 7, elevator trap doors in the center ring itself. Throughout the show performers pop up and descend making entrances and exits very clean and simple. They must be running around like moles under there.
Above the center ring is an aerialistsʼ dream circular rigging containing all manner of winches, cables and tracks so that descents and various props and aerial apparatuses can be moved up, down, spin, and circle around. These were used to their fullest effect throughout the show with drops, lyras, silks, cord, and the center descent of Brittany herself.

An LED drape encircled the rigging and it, too, could raise and lower while acting as a projection screen throughout making time for set changes behind it. Music video clips were seamlessly played driving the show along with close-up live camera shots so that even when the action was facing away from you, you had a view from the front. It was all very cleanly edited and didnʼt overwhelm but rather enhanced the experience and carried out each songsʼ theme to the hilt.
The show starts with a performance by Big Apple Circus performers doing trampoline, juggling cube, German gym wheel, hula hoops and clown bits from one end to the other, top caliber circus acts picking up the energy until the reveal of Brittany herself. Stunning without being overly dramatic, Brittany is a consummate performer, her skill levels on par with every other type of performer onstage. She led the dancers in tight choreography, teasingly and suggestively presented without being vulgar. She appeared and disappeared in magic props and was frighteningly lifted in aerial juxtapositions. This girl has got nerve and the strength to pull it off. All done gracefully with a smile on her face.

I was most impressed with her ability to walk, a pleasing combination of a stroll and a strut. As simple as it sounds, I know from experience how difficult it is, she moved from ring to ring, up and down stairs, the toughest to pull off, with perfect aplomb while singing and keeping the audience in her gaze. Again the logistics and complicated choreography and staging was pulled off seamlessly without a hitch. I was impressed with how easy it all felt.

Although from my close view I did notice a hole in her fishnets, clue to the fact that at some point she did get caught up. From my own circus experience I know how this can happen and the moment of sheer terror when it does, until the tights give way, not easily at that. Welcome, Brittany, to the tribe of Circus Girls!
The costuming was flattering and shiny, sexy yet functional, and contributed greatly to the appeal. The performers were multi-talented and spot on, each having an individual personality at times and lock step group movements as well. It takes a generous and confident performer to share the stage with others so talented and tons of hard work to make it look so smooth and real.

This show had the feel of a Las Vegas extravaganza on wheels. I applaud all the talent and vision, cooperation and precision, it took to pull it off.

Knowing bits of her backstory and personal challenges I was moved by the fact that she has managed to clean up her act and strict policies exist to ward off the evils of substance use by every single member of the crew. Hopefully this is a sign of the times and the glorification of rock ʻn roll substance excess, and its tragic consequences on talented performers, will fade into the past. As I looked into the huge mixed crowd of young girls with their moms, couples and gay men, I could only hope, that lives will be saved and enhanced by the disciplined beauty and strength of this awesome show.

Big props and thanks go out to Mighty Mike and Wini @ LA Circus for the hospitality.

On a scale of Lynn, I give it a 10.

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