HEAR THE ALBUM, dance to the 12-inch remix, see the concert, watch the movie, wear the T-shirt: Madonna's "Blond Ambition" 12-city tour is coming to Capital Centre this Friday and Saturday, and it's designed (boy, is it designed!) to make your body move, your ears ache, and your wallet empty.
Don't be alarmed if you see nothing but a blank stage upon entering Capital Centre. The set, designed by Madonna's younger brother Christopher Ciccone, is just hiding. The set is built on an elaborate system of hydraulics that lift five different video-evocative environments into existence for each suite of songs.
Here's what you get as the hardest-working woman in showbiz hurtles breathlessly from song to song: a futuristic "Metropolis"-like set for the opening number "Express Yourself," a candlelit cathedral for "Like a Prayer" and a big bed with red silk sheets for "Like a Virgin," which Madonna has slowed down and recast musically in vaguely Eastern tones. A Busby Berkeley-style staircase set ascends in time for the trio of "Dick Tracy" numbers, including the Stephen Sondheim-penned "Sooner or Later," in which Madonna materializes atop a baby grand (a` la Michelle Pfeiffer in "The Fabulous Baker Boys"). And a three-story stylized mural depicting some kind of orgy appears as a backdrop for "Vogue."
The six-man band is tucked away well off to the side, almost out of view. But who did you pay to see, anyway?
Ch-ch-ch-changes: Out of 1,500 sketches presented by French fashion's bad-boy designer Jean Paul Gaultier, Madonna picked six to wear with her headset microphone and blond chignon with a long ponytail. A taboo-taunting collision between aggressive male and predatory female, somewhere between "Cabaret" and "A Clockwork Orange," the Gaultier get-ups aren't the kind of stuff you're likely to see as knock-offs on the street. But who knows? Madonna's devoted wannabes have been coming to shows decked out in more than just the obligatory crucifixes and outer-worn underwear.
Gaultier also devised outre outfits for Madonna's nine dancers (two girls, seven boys), fitting several of the guys with ripped jeans, kneepads, and even traffic-cone brassieres for the "Like a Virgin" me'nage a` trois. For "Cherish," they don fishtails and metamorphose into mermen.
Carlton Wilborn has nine costume changes as one of Madonna's dancers, but he doesn't get to wear a bra. "Not that I'd mind," he says. "I think it's funny. I really respect Madonna's need to, um, shock people. And I'm sort of like that myself. I saw the costumes and I thought, 'Oh good . . . .' " You can pick out Wilborn in his favorite moment, the "Like a Prayer"/"Oh Father"/"Papa Don't Preach" segment -- he plays the priest Madonna interacts with.
Wilborn, 26, is a veteran of Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" video. For Madonna's tour he responded to an ad that called for "Real men . . . No wimps. No wannabes." More than 600 hopefuls showed up for the L.A. auditions, and 300 in New York, so Wilborn obviously fit the bill -- he also appears in Madonna's "Vogue" video.
Despite her notoriety for sacrilege, Madonna's got her virtuous side -- Wilborn says the boss always leads the dancers in a prayer just before they take the stage. "It takes a really long time to wind down after this show," he said.
Soon after rehearsals began, Madonna fired the avant-garde dance director Karole Armitage in favor of Vince Patterson, who's staged Pepsi spots and Michael Jackson's "Bad" tour -- Madonna's insistent crotch-grabbing is presumably a holdover from the Gloved One's bag of tics.
After nine weeks of rehearsals, including three weeks on a soundstage at Walt Disney Studios in L.A., the troupe broke the tour in Tokyo outdoors -- where it was pouring rain on opening night.
Radio stations WAVA (105.1 FM) and WRQX (107.3 FM) will both be broadcasting live from the concourse of Capital Centre from 6 till showtime. Hosting for WRQX is DJ Danny Wright; WAVA will have disc jockey Rick "Lear Jet" Leary (Friday) and "Janet From Another Planet" (Saturday). WAVA will feature a Madonna look-alike contest before Friday's show, and an after-show special recapping songs performed during the concert for those who missed it.
The Belgian house music outfit Technotronic ("Pump Up the Jam") warms up the crowd at 8; Madonna's expected to emerge on the stage at around 9:30. And at 90 minutes, 18 songs (including two encores) and plenty of simulated sex, scandal and sensationalism (and some singing, to boot), "Blond Ambition" is by all accounts a satisfying stadium show.