Madonna's latest tour -- An inside look at the artist's reinvention for the Girlie Show

By Dana Kennedy
September 17, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

Madonna may be the mother of reinvention, but there are signs that her prowess at headline-grabbing comebacks is waning.

Her tepidly received Dietrichesque opening number at the MTV Video Music Awards was a preview of her new 18-month tour, The Girlie Show, which kicks off in London on Sept. 25. But the Gypsy-meets-Cabaret show looks more like something tailored to Barbra Streisand than the Material Girl.

”It’s very sophisticated, kind of Broadway-driven,” says Madonna’s spokeswoman, Liz Rosenberg. ”Madonna has enormous admiration for the choreography of Broadway.” What’s in store:
· Insiders say the homage to the Great White Way will also tap into the new lesbian chic.
· Accompanying the nod to Dietrich, according to writer Glenn O’Brien, who edited Sex and wrote the Girlie Show tour diary, is ”a lot of vaudeville and burlesque.” O’Brien says the centerpiece of the stage will be a huge ”go-go pole,” like the kind found in upscale strip clubs.
· Madonna has already run through five choreographers, but Rosenberg denies any discord. The Girlie Show consists of a sequence of scenes that tell a story, according to Rosenberg, and Madonna just wanted a different dance director for each. (One choreographer did pass muster: Gene Kelly, 81.)

How eager is the public to see Madonna? Pretty eager, judging from ticket sales. She sold out concerts in London and Paris. Sales in Germany, Australia, and select U.S. cities are expected to follow suit. But even if Madonna can still put on one of the greatest shows on earth, her career outlook is uncertain. Her record sales have declined steadly since Like a Virgin. ”Erotica has not had the success of her previous albums,” admits Rosenberg, ”but I don’t get any fewer calls about her.”

Not many of those calls are from Hollywood agents, however. Given the buzz on her next outing, MGM’s Snake Eyes, her dream of movie stardom seems far off. Originally scheduled to open in October, Snake Eyes, directed by Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant), has now been pushed back to March 1994. A source close to the singer says Madonna wasn’t happy when she saw an early screening last May and wanted changes. ”But everybody else liked it; they talked her out of it.”

Talk is also lukewarm about Maverick, Madonna’s $60 million multimedia company. Maverick Records, the most visible arm of the company, has so far been a disappointment. Says a source, ”It’s not that they’re going in the wrong direction, but people can’t tell what direction they’re going in.”

Having turned 35 last month, Madonna herself may be struggling with her sense of direction. ”She shot to fame during the Reagan era,” says Adam Sexton, editor of Desperately Seeking Madonna, an anthology of essays published this year. ”Now we’ve got a pot-smoking Democrat in the White House. She needs to have some sort of Daddy to rebel against. But with this baby boomer in charge, it’s like she’s out of a job.”
Additional reporting by Nisid Hajari and Jeffrey Wells