Friday, June 29, 2018 | 2 a.m.
There were many questions heading into the debut production of “Gwen Stefani: Just a Girl” at Planet Hollywood’s Zappos Theater Wednesday night, none more important than this: When would Stefani roll out some oversized banana props for a performance of her 2004 hit “Hollaback Girl,” which spent a month at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100? And when, not if, that happened, would this show be bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S?
The former No Doubt frontwoman and recent judge on “The Voice” rolled out the big yellow goods from the jump, appearing onstage at 9:19 p.m. atop a grand black-and-white staircase flanked by dancers and showgirls equipped with said bananas. It was a splashy Vegas arrival to be sure, one that prompted an audience of varied ages out of their seats clapping and singling along.
Stefani is not a pop star along the lines of Britney Spears or the Backstreet Boys, nor is she an all-around entertainer like Jennifer Lopez. Between No Doubt’s stockpile of rock hits and her dance and pop-oriented solo work, she has plenty of music, but it was hard to predict what her show would look and feel like. After night one, it’s clear Stefani and her team have a vast appreciation of Vegas-style glitz and glamour and have fashioned over-the-top visuals that connect the dots with her style and brand. For the brassy “Spiderwebs,” the staging is a speaker-stocked neon house party. For “Wind It Up,” the entire theater becomes a colorful cupcake-rainbow explosion. Digital teardrops fall during the climax of “Used to Love You” and Stefani is elevated on a rose-covered platform for the ballad “Don’t Speak.” Several videos played between sets of songs allowed her to tell bits of her life story and explain where she finds inspiration.
Stefani’s opening night excitement was palpable. After arriving with “Hollaback Girl” and following it with the funky No Doubt track “Bathwater,” she dove into the more recent “Baby Don’t Lie,” exclaiming, “I can’t believe you’re here!” She expressed gratitude to the first ticket buyers and promised an epic night. By my count she reeled off 23 songs, including covers of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and “The Tide Is High,” made famous by Blondie in 1980. Her strongest performances came in the second half of the show with the Dr. Dre-produced track “Rich Girl,” the energetic electro-pop single “What You Waiting For?” and “Don’t Speak,” which sparked the biggest crowd response of the night.
Stefani closed in a sparkly cowgirl getup, one of several stunning costumes, with “Make Me Like You,” “Hey Baby” and “Just a Girl.” Before the finale, she teased her boyfriend in the audience: “You don’t know what it’s like to wear a cowgirl costume in front of Blake Shelton right there. It’s my fantasy come true.” For Stefani and her many different, loyal fans, the first big Vegas show fulfilled the ultimate fantasy.
“Gwen Stefani: Just a Girl” continues at 9 p.m. June 29 and 30, and July 3, 6, 7, 11, 13, 14, 18, 20 and 21 at the Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood (3667 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-777-2782) and more information can be found at caesars.com.