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Slick staging had Paula Abdul under its spell

Nov 21st, 1991

By MICHAEL LISI for The Daily Gazette

ALBANY – The dancing was phenomenal, the lights were terrific and the staging was clever and creative. In fact, the production of Paula Abdul’s “Under My Spell” tour that rolled into the Knickerbocker Arena Wednesday night was so sharp and slick that it actually overshadowed Abdul and her repertoire of ready-made contemporary radio hits.

If you were looking for a show with Las Vegas-style glitz and 1009s special effects, the 29-year-old Los Angeles native’s first-ever tour was sure to please. If it was the music you came to hear, you might have been better off staying home and spending the $21 ticket fee on her two albums.

Almost from the minute she descended from the rafters of her customized two-tiered stage in a bed of lights, Abdul was literally surrounded by a small posse of dancers.  Two dancers, aloft on 20-foot stilts, along with six other dancers dressed like Bruce Willis in “Hudson Hawk,” met her on stage as she opened her 90-minute show with “Spellbound,” the title track of her new album.

The stage itself was a marvel, complete with hydraulic lifts to lift and lower her crack band’s drummer and her three top-notch backup singers. Two smaller hydraulic lifts – similar to the ones Batman and Robin used to change into their costumes in the old “Batman” television series – were employed by both Abdul and her dancers as they danced to videos and computer-generated designs on a large screen above the center of the stage.

Abdul, famed for her hotshot choreography skills for everyone from the Los Angeles Lakers cheerleading squad to Janet Jackson, let her dancers do a good bit of the dancing to songs like the funky “Vibeology” and “Skat Strut,” a rap number done by MC Skat Cat – the animated cat Abdul “dances” with in her popular “Opposites Attract” video.

Abdul and Skat Cat danced during the show to “Opposites Attract” – Skat Cat on the center stage video screen – but the routine was not nearly as infectious as the one Abdul cooked up for the video.  Abdul’s dancing seemed sedate even during “Promise of a New Day,” when her dancers circled her and shouted “Go Paula, Go!”

Three dancers dressed like Playboy bunnies rolled around the stage while a dancer dressed in a Skat Cat costume jumped and rapped “Skat Strut” – a forgettable number obviously included in the show to allow Paula time for one of her two full costume changes of the night.  She and two dancers used the time to slip into black leather ensembles, draped with gold chains for the sexy Prince-penned “U.”

Video played a major part in the production, with Abdul dancing to her swatches of her contagious “Straight Up” while standing in front of six large video screens stacked on stage.  It was an interesting effect and exciting to see Abdul doing the same steps live in sync with the video, and by the din of shrill screams from the capacity crowd of mostly adolescent girls and Paula wanna-bes, it worked to a tee.

Filed under: Spellbound


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