It's show time for Britney Spears. Her first arena tour in five years , "The Circus starring Britney Spears," starts Tuesday in New Orleans. Her return to the stage comes at a time when she has quite the comeback going on. Last week, "Circus," the second single and title track from her new CD soared to No. 1 on Billboard's Pop 100 Airplay chart. It follows in the path of "Womanizer," which went to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart and No. 2 on the Pop 100 (the Hot 100 combines airplay and sales, whereas the Pop 100 is an airplay-only chart).This marks the first time in her 10- year career that Spears has scored back to back No. 1s, according to her website.

Additionally, "Circus" (the CD) continues to sell well. Three months after its release, it stands at a very respectable No. 25 on the Billboard 200 on the Billboard 200 and has sold close to 1.4 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan (In the interest of full disclosure, her label hired me to write the bio for the album).

But all eyes are now on Spears and her live show. After her disastrous, dazed, robotic performance on the MTV Video Music Awards in 2007, she redeemed herself on "Good Morning America" this past December, but the jury is out on whether her comeback is complete.

That means there's a lot riding on the gal from Kentwood, Louisiana on Tuesday night. At the same time, my hunch is that she doesn't have to hit it out of the ballpark-a double will do. All she needs to do is get through opening night without a major screw-up and the upward trajectory and joyous declarations that "Britney's back" will continue. Her fans are in her corner and the press is rooting for her. Any woodenness on March 3 will be attributed to first-night jitters.

And what if she tanks? It's not going to happen. If there were any doubts that she wasn't going to be ready on Tuesday, her people would have started cancelling dates already-she'd get a mysterious illness or be hospitalized for "exhaustion." (Have you noticed that non-celebrities are never, ever, ever hospitalized for "exhaustion?") Her handlers know that she's out of lifelines. She's on her own this time.

I wonder if she should be touring at all yet. This is someone who, not too long ago, had locked herself in her bathroom and was carried out on a stretcher looking so out of it, she seemed to have landed from another planet. Sources tell me she finds solace in the work, that and her two sons are what ground her. That may be, but Spears' private life is still playing itself out in a very public fashion and she's someone whom the courts have decided needs a conservator (her father) to govern her affairs because she is not capable of sound judgment. Is that someone who should be undergoing the rigors and pressures of a national tour? Maybe the answer is yes. Since the album came out and she's been in rehearsals, she seems to be on a disciplined, non-destructive journey back. Maybe touring is the absolute best way to keep Spears focused, away from bad influences and on a path that provides her with joy and happiness. I hope so.

Selected seats are still available for opening night. We pulled a pair of $500 tickets in the first row (unbelievably, that's not the highest tier-the top tier is $750) on Saturday. We were also able to buy a pair of general admission floor seats at $125 a pop.

For a listing of all of Britney Spears' "Circus" Tour dates and ticket links, click here.

 

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