Inside Madonna’s ‘The Girlie Show’ tour 30 years on

After 1990’s groundbreaking Blond Ambition Tour, Madonna continued to push boundaries — and buttons — with The Girlie Show, her most titillating trek of all, in 1993.

But while the Queen of Pop was ever the provocateur, she turned to some old Hollywood royalty, Gene Kelly, for a touch of classicism. The “Singin’ in the Rain” stepper swooped in to choreograph a number for the “Erotica” ballad “Rain.”

“When he came in, we were just in awe,” The Girlie Show background singer Donna De Lory told The Post. “He would tell us stories about how back in the day, when he danced with women, he couldn’t touch the women — he had to keep his hand, like, two inches from their body.”

But it’s no surprise that this collaboration ultimately didn’t click, with Madonna firing the screen legend, given all the risqué business in The Girlie Show.

After the raunchy rollout of her “Erotica” album, “Sex” book and “Body of Evidence” film, the pop superstar had reached a new level of controversy. Still, that backlash didn’t make her back down when The Girlie Show opened 30 years ago on Sept. 25, 1993 in London — where Madge will also launch her 40th-anniversary Celebration Tour on Saturday night.

Now, three decades on, The Girlie Show still remains just as shocking as it did in the early 1990s.

Madonna was flanked by background singers Niki Haris (left) and Donna De Lory for much of The Girlie Show.

From the moment that a topless Carrie Ann Inaba — now a squeaky-clean “Dancing with a Stars” judge —— slid down that stripper pole, it was a defiant descent into the sexual underworld in the age of AIDS.

“She was unabashed and just unapologetically herself,” said The Girlie Show guitarist Paul Pesco. “She was just saying, ‘Hey, this is me. This is what I want to do.’ And, you know, it was always very artistic and very tasteful … It felt natural and just strong.”

Inspired by Edward Hopper’s 1941 “Girlie Show” painting of a burlesque stripper, the international tour met with protests and calls for the concert’s cancellation.

“All that stuff — I just kind of tuned it out” said De Lory. “I mean, it just was like business as usual honestly. There was always somebody saying something about her … She was always pushing people’s buttons.”

“Dancing with the Stars” judge Carrie Ann Inaba was a topless dancer at the beginning of The Girlie Show.
Eugene Adebari/Shutterstock

She was also pushing herself — and her creative team.

“The thing is, she’s a perfectionist,” said Pesco, who had previously played on Madonna’s 1985 Virgin Tour. “Once everything was worked out, she would run the show, have lunch, [then] run it again, and then maybe work out kinks. I always admired her work ethic — and her respect for the creative people she would collaborate with.

“As we would rehearse the set, we would actually craft the arrangements together, and if somebody had an idea, she would listen to those ideas and we’d try things out. It really was an organically fused performance.”

De Lory and her fellow background vocalist Niki Haris — who both sang with Madonna on 1987’s “Who’s That Girl” trek before returning for 1990’s Blond Ambition — would get a special spotlight in The Girlie Show thanks to the singer’s brother Christopher Ciccone, who was the tour director.

Madonna’s Girlie Show was a defiant descent into the sexual underworld in the age of AIDS.
Getty Images

“I have to give a shout-out to him … because he was always advocating for Nikki and I,” she says. “He loved us being with Madonna. He loved those numbers [with] the three girls together and that energy. And I think that’s probably why we’re in it the most in that show.”

De Lory, who has a new “Praying for Love” remix out now, would go on to back Madonna up on 2001’s Drowned World Tour, 2004’s Re-Invention Tour and 2006’s Confessions Tour. And she and Harris continue to perform together — they’ll be at Phoenix Pride Festival on Oct. 22.

Meanwhile, Pesco — who first played with Madonna before she was even signed — is working on a project with The Girlie Show drummer Omar Hakim three decades after they opened that tour at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Madonna’s 1993 The Girlie Show tour drew protests and calls for the concert’s cancellation.

“I do remember being nervous … hoping everything runs smoothly and that there’s no major train wrecks,” he said.

And De Lory is looking forward to Madonna’s latest reinvention as the Celebration Tour — delayed three months because of her health scare in late June — kicks off at the O2 Arena on Saturday night.

“She’s brilliant at doing that,” she says. “Let’s just appreciate her for being here … one of the best stage performers of all time.”

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