Paula Abdul: Forever Your Girl
At a Glance
What is it?
A singing, dancing, and storytelling show from pop legend and choreographer Paula Abdul.
Where is it?
In the main showroom at The Flamingo on the Center Strip.
Is it worth the cost?
If you like her music and/or are a fan of dance then absolutely.
Why should I see this show?
Because the woman works harder than just about any other headliner in Vegas.
What else do I need to know?
The Flamingo showroom still has the old school layout with tables and booths and isn’t terribly comfortable.
What’s the bottom line?
You’re going to be amazed at how much fun you’ll have.
It seems like Paula Abdul is out to prove that she is not just the daffy former American Idol judge by putting on one of the most energetic, entertaining shows in Vegas. Within a few minutes of the curtain going up, she dives off a ten-foot high platform into the waiting arms of her backup dancers and then gets flung back and forth by them like very well-toned rag doll. Did I mention that (as of this writing) she’s 57 years old? The woman is a beast, and I mean that in the best possibly way.
A little career retrospective for perspective. Abdul got her start as a Laker Girl and then kick-ball-changed her way into a superstar career as a choreographer and a pop singer. Her 1988 debut album, Forever Your Girl, sold more than seven million copies and set a record for the most number one singles from a first-time artist. Hits like the title track, Cold Heart Snake, Knocked Out, Opposites Attract, and Straight Up dominated the radio in the late eighties and a second album in 1991 spawned more hits like Rush, Rush and Promise of a New Day. Just when it seemed like she was poised to become the next Janet or Madonnna, her ascension to the top was derailed by a 1992 plane crash that resulted in her needing fifteen spinal surgeries. She re-entered pop culture as one of the original judges on American Idol alongside Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, where she gained some infamy for her endearingly loopy behavior and since then has been a fixture on other competition shows like So You Think You Can Dance and The X-Factor.
Her production at The Flamingo is a greatest hits retrospective with lots of dancing and storytelling along the way. There’s an interesting pre-show of her crew of incredibly talented dancers warming up, as if we’re getting a backstage peek. A costumed live version of MC Skat Kat, the rapping cartoon cat Abdul danced with in the Opposites Attract music video, comes out to pump up the crowd with an audience participation dance battle. Advice: enthusiastic twerking, regardless of physicality or talent, will probably get you a t-shirt.
Then Abdul comes out with her choreographer hat on and puts the dancers through their jazz, Broadway, hip-hop, and ballroom paces before joining them on stage and kicking the whole thing into gear with the aforementioned jumping off of platforms. Vibeology and The Way That You Love Me, two of her best songs in my opinion, set the tone for the rest of the production, which focuses heavily on the dancing. And she’s phenomenal at it. Lots of pop stars do choreography during their shows but they are usually doing simplified versions of what their backup dancers are doing. Here, Abdul keeps up with people half her age and looks fantastic doing it. She’s four years older than me and I often have a hard time getting out of my comfy chair.
Most of the vocals appeared to be either lip-synced or live-to-track but when she’s putting this much sweat into the proceedings it’s totally forgivable.
When she needs a bit of a break, Abdul tells tales of her life both in and out of the Hollywood spotlight. You’ll hear stories of the shoestring budget she was given to make her first album, the plane crash that nearly killed her, her time with Randy and Simon on American Idol, and more. Some of it comes with a “believe in yourself and you can do anything” saccharine, but she seems earnest so it’s not cloying. There’s also probably a bit of revisionist history happening here – are we really to believe that all the crazy stuff she said on Idol was because of dares Simon made? Okay, Paula.
One of the best non-musical numbers is a monologue where Abdul describes the process of putting together a show like this, done with many of her backup dancers who are all seated but do rhythmic motions with their hands and feet. It’s intricate and insightful in ways that you don’t normally get in a Vegas headliner show.
If, in fact, Paula Abdul is trying to reestablish her bona fides as an entertainer with this show, she has absolutely proven her case.