Paula Abdul's 'Forever Your Girl' Residency Recounts Her Career Highs and Lows

Paula Abdul
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Paula Abdul performs at the 2019 LA Pride Festival on June 7, 2019 in West Hollywood, Calif.

In August, Paula Abdul quietly launched a soft run of her Forever Your Girl residency at Flamingo Las Vegas with little fanfare surrounding the first four dates. Uncharacteristic of how performers usually kick off their big Vegas debuts, the grand opening was planned for the second spate in October, a choice that left those who closely follow the city’s entertainment scene scratching their heads.

This unique approach, however, comes as no surprise to those who closely follow Abdul—known for her oftentimes unconventional behavior (well chronicled in 2007’s Hey Paula reality show)—and her squiggly career path—she went from Laker girl to Jackson family choreographer to creator of the most memorable movement sequences in films from the ’80s and ’90s like Coming to America

Despite dancing to the beat of her own drummer, Abdul’s 30-year career range has made her an icon, and planted her as one of Virgin Records’ first solo artists and one of American Idol’s first judges. 

Forever Your Girl offers two-hours of back-to-back hits, a reminder to all in attendance just how many she has; as well as “lots of storytelling,” a promise she made when she spoke with Billboard in May. “I love telling stories through music and dance,” she says. “I want to have a real experience with the audience so they leave knowing me a bit more.”  

Appropriate to an artist who holds numerous records—she was the first female to ever receive four No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 singles off a debut album, and ranks No. 10 on Billboard’s All Time Top 200 Albums by Women—Paula Abdul’s Las Vegas offering premiered its second set of dates Oct. 22—and grand opening October 24—with a packed house of diehard fans who came to see her dance and perform the infectious pop hits they grew up with.   

The show begins with Paula acting as choreographer from the audience, instructing her talented troupe of dancers in a kitsch and schtick routine. From there, Abdul jumps onstage for “Vibeology” from 1991’s Spellbound album and “The Way That You Love Me” from 1988’s Forever Your Girl and then rolls into a montage of greatest career moments. These include choreographing George Michael’s legendary Faith tour, Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” and “Control” videos and the 1987 film Can’t Buy Me Love. All the while, her animated companion from the “Opposites Attract” video, MC Skat Kat takes a furry but human form side stage as a cat-costumed DJ.

Beyond all the banter, most in the audience are there to see Abdul dance and she does just that in a cascade of blindingly bedazzled outfits. Those over-the-top numbers are cut with long stories about her time as a professional cheerleader, how she fished the eight-track for her one of her biggest hits out of a trash can, her trials and tribulations on American Idol and a recount of an alleged undocumented plane crash that left her to have 15 spinal surgeries.

After 120-minutes, even some die-hard fans might even find themselves perplexed about what they just saw onstage and needing to come down from the inevitable pop sugar high. One thing most everyone can agree on though judging from the crowd’s reaction to the finale is that the tap-dance prelude to “Straight Up” still remains 20 seconds of absolute visual and auditory perfection even 31 years later.