‘Britney: Piece of Me’ opens in Vegas

Pop diva Britney Spears opened her two-year residency at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas to a sold-out theater Dec. 27.

“Britney: Piece of Me” opened with Spears entering the stage suspended inside a spherical cage, exiting to join her 14 dancers in a high energy dance number of her 2013 single, “Work B*tch.”

Spears’ two-year residency is the first show for the recently renovated Axis theater at Planet Hollywood on the Las Vegas Strip. The theater features a dance floor that is surrounded by the walk-out area of the stage and VIP table seating and bottle service for those seated closest to the stage. The theater first opened 37 years ago, in 1976, as the Aladdin Theater for the Performing Arts.

Britney Spears performs her 2004 hit "Everytime" during a dress rehearsal Dec. 26 at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. Photo: David Becker

Fans cheered throughout her performance as she delivered many of her hits, including “Oops!… I Did It Again,” “…Baby One More Time,” “Toxic,” “Slave 4U”  and “Circus,” while performing two songs from her 2013 album, “Britney Jean,” – “Work B*tch” and “Perfume.” A total of 24 songs are performed in part or full during the 90-minute show.

Although Caesars Entertainment bills the theater as an intimate setting for Spears’ residency, with 4,600 seats many fans were too far removed from the pop star to experience the sort of energy an intimate show provides.

For fans sitting in the more affordable sections of the theater, Britney was difficult to see.  Instead of using the massive screen display framing the stage to better display  the pop diva (typical of a large-scale arena show), the theater’s screens were used to show video clips of a younger Spears and to create a visual frame for many of her numbers. Fans were relegated to zooming in with their phone cameras to better glimpse Spears.

For those seated in the far right of the theater facing the stage, Spears seemed to disappear from the stage during a good 30 seconds toward the end of her set as she performed one of her songs from an area not viewable to those in that section.

In a town that features multiple Cirque du Soleil performances, world-class DJs and iconic headliners, “Pieces of Me” definitely needed to bring visually stunning performances. The show delivered on the production values with multiple costume (and wig) changes for Spears (yes, you’ll see Britney in a jewel encrusted bodysuit reminiscent of the “Toxic” video), skilled back-up dancers, props and more, including rain and fire.

And although many questioned whether Spears is lip-synching her way through her performance, many would forgive her that to watch an outstanding dance performance.

Her dance moves, however, were limited and tired, lacking the energy and skill seen in previous memorable Spears’ performances. Much of it was Spears strutting up and down the stage. Her biggest moments came from entering the stage as an over-sized angel as simulated snow fell while performing “Everytime,” and jumping off a 20-foot tree while performing her hit “Toxic.”

Her banter with the audience was also uninspired for someone who has been performing live for 15 years. After opening the show with her latest single “Work B*tch” and her 2008 hit, “Womanizer,” she said, “What’s up, Vegas? I can’t hear you,” before going into her next song performance.

Her most interesting interaction came as she sought out a “hottie” to bring up on stage and make crawl as she snapped a whip while performing to 2007’s “Freakshow.” (That “hottie” was actor and TV host Mario Lopez).

Spears closed out her roughly 90-minute performance with 1999’s “(You Drive Me) Crazy” and 2011’s “Till The World Ends,” mixing in “Work B*itch” with the finale that included the standard Las Vegas confetti drop.

For Spears’ fans, there was plenty of classic Britney songs and flashy dance numbers, but you’ll need to be in the expensive seats if you hope to really “see” Britney.

Pieces of Me