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TV REVIEW : ‘Girlie Show’ Lacks Magic

The ‘90s Madonna is sinewy and boyish, but she still has a bulging costume trunk and the ambition to make the most of it.

But Saturday’s telecast on HBO of her “Girlie Show” concert from a cricket stadium in Sydney, Australia, shouldn’t cut into ticket sales when the tour reaches Los Angeles someday. All those cameras, two solid hours, and you still don’t feel you’ve seen the show.

Rock concerts have rarely succeeded as television events, and with its large scale, big cast and constant motion, this one was an especially tough challenge. Some shots in the tape-delayed telecast had obviously been plotted to catch a key moment but for much of the show, Mark Miceli’s direction seemed to be winging it, alternating between spectacle and intimacy.

It would cut away from the dance troupe in the middle of a maneuver, offer a long shot when you wanted a close look, come in tight when you needed the big picture. Instead of conveying the magic, it documented the labor, and failed to unify her succession of personas into a coherent whole.

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The show itself is pretty low on the “shock” that Madonna is famous for--a little profanity, a flash of flesh, a choreographed orgy. The emotional heart of the production is a journey from disco-flavored hedonism and celebration to the tragedy of AIDS, culminating in a heartfelt performance of her lament “In This Life.” Here, her theatrical instincts connected to a real, immediate issue instead of just another outfit to try on for size.

After she was through being the dominatrix, the Dietrich, the disco doll, et al., she came forward for a show-capping set of up-tempo numbers. Interacting with the audience, bantering with her dancers, acting like a natural, casual, playful pop singer in full strut and with star power to spare, she found her best role of the night.


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