“Vegas, there’s a new girl in town,” Jennifer Lopez announced during a sold-out show at Planet Hollywood's Axis Theater on Friday.
Judging from the dazzling two-hour spectacle the multi-hyphenate entertainer has produced for her debut Vegas residency, Lopez’s proclamation felt more like a warning to the other pop divas that have mounted high-profile shows on the Strip.
The show is called “All I Have” — named after her smash duet with LL Cool J — and Lopez delivered that and more in a production so awe-inspiring it’s clear she is making a play for “it-girl” status in a city that boasts marquees from superstars Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Britney Spears, whom she shares a venue with.
Directed by husband-and-wife team of Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo, a.k.a. NappyTabs, the production aims, and greatly succeeds, at setting a new gold standard for Vegas popstar showcases.
With enough razzle, dazzle and pizazz to light up the entire strip — 335,000 Swarovski crystals adorning her Versace and designer costumes as well as the set pieces also help — Lopez eclipses her competitors with the tech-savvy show that features lasers, pyro, stunning costumes and sleek dancing.
An ethereal, fairytale overture opened the show as a quartet of female dancers in showgirl regalia (marvelous feathered headpieces and wings) were suspended above the stage.
Clad in a sparkly bodysuit adorned with a crystal-encrusted bra and bikini bottoms and a white feathered robe, Lopez launched into her debut single, “If You Had My Love,” her first chart-topper.
For the next two hours, the singer-actress better known as J. Lo sizzled in the nearly $10 million production that merged Hollywood glitz and glamour, classic Vegas revue, Broadway pomp and arena spectacle with the showmanship, sex appeal and genre hopping that’s made the Bronx-born Puerto Rican a superstar.
“I was born to do this,” Lopez said at the top of the show in the recorded intro.
Saccharine, yes, but she worked tirelessly to convince and made the work look effortless.
When she wasn’t slinking up and down a mirrored staircase adorned with jewels, she was being presented with sequined red roses by muscular male dancers riding blue-lacquered hoverboards for “Love Don’t Cost A Thing,” twirling around the “O” of her nickname, which was built into the stage as a catwalk, in a custom-designed floor-length fur coat to Sheila E’s “The Glamorous Life,” going full-on Bob Fosse with a jazzy soft-shoe routine while covering “Bye Bye Birdie” standard “A Lot of Livin' to Do” and timing her hip shakes to blasts of pyro during her funky clubstomper "Get Right."
It was part “Jubilee,” part “Material Girl,” part “Jenny From the Block” — and that was only the opening salvo of songs.
During a segment that paid tribute to her Bronx roots she rode in on a glittery 6 subway train (her 1999 debut album was titled “On the 6”) in front of a LED screen projecting a New York skyline as dancers dressed up like speakers helped her run through R&B-hip-hop jams “I’m Real,” “Feeling So Good” and the aforementioned “Jenny From the Block,” the stage framed by two gigantic New York Yankees hats that could have doubled as houses.
Ja Rule popped up for the first of two guest appearances of the night, rapping his verse to better known, gritter remix of “I’m Real.” Later she was joined by Latin pop sensation Prince Royce to cover Debra Laws' "Very Special" and “All I Have,” which sampled it.
Not once did Lopez rely on the gaggle of dancers, her tight five-piece band or any of the lasers or pyrotechnics behind her to carry the show — and it was largely her magnificent footwork that did the talking.
Twenty-five years after she got her break as a Fly Girl on “In Living Color,” Lopez’s dancing is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the show.
While she deserves a great deal of credit for singing live for the entirety of Friday's show — especially impressive given how much she really moves — watching her throw her body into every routine with a vigor and intensity that never ceased is what made the show a marvel. At one point she even runs and throws herself on the floor to glide on her knees, timing her dive to land at the very edge of the stage.
After joking that she had gotten too “thuggish” during her hip-hop segment — she was, after all, wearing high-top sneakers, bodysuit, Yankees hat and holding a wooden stickball bat — she went into full Vegas showgirl mode. She even dipped her feet directly into a hole in the stage and pulled them out to unveil a pair of sexy stilettos.
Amid a background of glowing female legs (some real, some not) sexily crossed inside neon-lighted picture frames, a velvet-gowned Lopez took her time teasing the audience with a slow sultry burlesque striptease where she flipped and straddled a large chaise lounge, ripping off her turquoise gown to reveal a crystal-adorned corset and matching garters as her bouncy, DJ Mustard-produced b-side “Girls” blasted over the speakers. The corset came off too, revealing matching bra and panties.
“I know what you want, some booty,” Lopez joked, coyly referencing her famous curves.
Knowing what the people wanted, the singer then unleashed a vicious rumpshake to her derriere-celebrating anthem “Booty” where she was joined by a line of female dancers, who all extended their backsides and wiggled to the groove. During "Booty," the band dropped in a line of Drake's smash "Hotline Bling" as Lopez announced, "Booty call!” before stepping into yet another fiery routine.
The only time Lopez took a beat from the action came during a brief section of ballads, dedicated to her 8-year-old twins.
But this being Vegas, just standing and singing wasn’t enough for Lopez.
She performed "Feel the Light,” her contribution to her animated family film “Home,” and an emotional cover of Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” in a white dress that doubled as a video screen, projecting starry visuals as it rose about 30 feet above the stage.
“I just want them to be happy,” she said, chocking back tears as her mom looked on.
Having skipped across most of her discography, the final act leaned toward her Latin roots and the dance beats that largely define her, covering Celia Cruz's "Quimbara" and the Latin version of mambo classic “Sway” before diving into her own salsa smash, "Let's Get Loud.”
Lopez redressed one of her biggest dance-pop hits, “Waiting for Tonight,” as a house stomper equipped with fierce voguing before ending the night atop a silvery moon as glitter showered the audience during “On the Floor.”
With two prime-time shows on the air putting her on TV screens for roughly five hours a week, her own fragrances, countless endorsement deals, a TV and film production company, part ownership in a cable network and an unbridled omnipresence in pop culture, Lopez's Vegas show felt more like a victory lap for a consummate performer who is more famous than any one of their works — a sparkly victory lap that just made her the Queen of the Strip.
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