- The Washington Times - Monday, December 24, 2001

Britney Spears may fret she's "not a girl, not yet a woman," but the queen of teen pop knows how to stage a Las Vegas-type spectacle.
Miss Spears, who turned 20 this month, wrapped up her Dream Within a Dream 2001 tour Friday night at the MCI Center. Originally scheduled for Oct. 31, the concert had been postponed because of production delays.
Young girls, teen-agers and parents who paid $39.50 to $65 for their seats filled the arena by the time the show got under way a half-hour late. Like the title of one of the songs on Miss Spears' new album, the audience came "Anticipating."
Caitlin Johnson, 11, thrilled with the Christmas gift from family members, traveled from Roanoke for the evening. "Her songs are made for girls," Caitlin said. "A lot of girl singers sing songs for boys."
Two rows down from Caitlin sat Jessica Klotz and Elizabeth Zaprazny, both 25 and both from Chevy Chase. Miss Klotz said she knew her friend was a Britney fan and had bought tickets for the two of them. Miss Zaprazny, who has studied all kinds of dance and takes voice lessons, described Miss Spears as "an inspiration to any girl who wants to sing, dance and have her dreams come true."
"She's an amazing dancer," Miss Zaprazny said. "For someone so young, she has given up so much" to undertake the rigors of an entertainment career.
This is some of what they saw:
Miss Spears making her entrance on a circus-type rig that turned her upside down and set the stage for the circuslike atmosphere.
The singer rising from a giant music box dressed like a ballerina for "Lucky."
Miss Spears disappearing into trapdoors; appearing amid dry ice, flames or smoke; and hovering in the air on bungee cords, all on a 153-foot-long stage with three platforms. The 70-foot main stage (with a runway to an additional stage in the middle of the arena) was designed to provide the audience with great sightlines, show promoters said. It did.
Miss Spears' backup ensemble dressed in black to evoke law enforcers for "Overprotected" and her backup dancers performing haunting solos that depicted dying love in "Please Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know."
Miss Spears striding around the stage in "Stronger," a number enthusiastically embraced by the audience, or kicking over a male member of her company in a lament over her treatment by a man.
The singer, who acknowledges Madonna as one of her influences, made at least a dozen costume changes. Although parents have panned Miss Spears' dress as too suggestive for a role model, it seemed more conservative in this show. True, her midriff was typically bare as she performed in glittery halter tops and bell-bottoms, but even the bikini for her jungle-queen routine for her controversial new hit single, "I'm a Slave for U," fell short of brazen.
Miss Spears, who mixed numbers from her new hit album, "Britney," with that of her debut, "Baby One More Time," and her second, "Oops I Did It Again, addressed the controversy.
"I know I get a lot of flak for what what I wear and sing and don't sing but I'm not a little girl anymore," she said when talking about the song on her new album that she says defines her quandary: "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman."
"I'm doing exactly what I want to do," she added.
Miss Spears also hit a patriotic note. "I just want to get this off my chest," she said. "I want to say how proud I am of my country how we've come together in hard times."
(She's donating $1 from each ticket to the fund for children of firefighters and police officers who died in the World Trade Center attacks.)
Although Miss Spears lip-synced some of the songs and spectacle reigned rain drenched the singer, wearing a see-through cowboy-type hat and coat, and her backup singers during the encore, "Baby One More Time" the show still won out as sheer entertainment.
Young Caitlin noted her satisfaction. "It was really great, really creative. She put a lot of effort into it."
Elizabeth Zaprazny disagreed. "I thought she could have done more," she said. "I didn't think she danced a lot." Miss Zaprazny acknowledged, though, that she had seen things she hadn't seen before, such as Miss Spears dancing against a life-size image of herself shown on a video screen.
Jeff Kelly, 11, of Pottstown, Pa. "Hey, you want a guy's point of view?" volunteered that this was his first concert and it was "all great." Asked what he liked about Miss Spears, he added with some embarrassment, "She's hot."

Then there was Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, who replaced the boy band O-Town as the opening act. Mr. Combs, known more as a businessman than an artist, paced the stage exhorting the audience to do the Wave to rap numbers, some of which he performed. Noting that he had attended Howard University, Mr. Combs shouted, "Come on, D.C."
Someone sitting next to me muttered, "I was expecting more in the way of entertainment."

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