ROLL CALL: Britney’s Night Out & Fantasia’s Broadway Clout

Your Daily Dispatch of Celebrity Shenanigans by Tommy Vergason

May 18, 2007

BRITNEY’S PLAYPEN: Britney Spears had a fun “girl’s night out” with pals Alli and Jessica on Tuesday, reports PEOPLE. Spears reportedly had a healthy dinner of grilled rare Hawaiian blue fin tuna at Dominick’s in West Hollywood, and then headed off to Club Les Deux with her girlfriends. According to the report, the trio (along with Spears’ bodyguard) took over “the playpen,” a secluded area of the hotspot. “Britney was dancing like crazy and in a great mood,” an onlooker reportedly tells PEOPLE. “She seemed like she was on top of the world and wanted everyone to see her.” Incidentally, Britney updated her Web site the following day with a message to fans, which spoke of her ambition to “continue to live in this brighter state.”

More Celebrity Scoop After the Video!

FANTASIA IS PERFECTLY ‘PURPLE’: Season four “Idol” winner Fantasia Barrino has been in the spotlight this past month as the new star of Broadway’s “The Color Purple,” and according to todays’ review from THE NY POST’s CLIVE BARNES, her performance would put anyone in a brighter state. Says Barnes: “That [Fantasia] could sing, we knew. Ever since the moment she launched into Gershwin’s “Summertime” on “American Idol,” there was no doubt. But that she could act . . . and act so wonderfully. So tenderly, so touchingly, so effortlessly. That came as a surprise.” The critic goes so far as to confess that Fantasia’s portrayal of leading role Celie moved him in an unexpected way. “I feel a lot in the theater - I wouldn’t stick in this business if I didn’t - but usually I don’t cry,” he writes. “With this performance, I found tears running down my cheeks.”

TOUR OF (RELIEVED) DUTY: An “Idol” finalist from the current season has received some good news, reports USMAGAZINE.COM. As previously reported, ousted finalist Phil Stacey was concerned that he may not be able to participate in this summer’s “American Idol” national tour because of his commitment to serving in the U.S. Navy. US claims that the Navy has relieved Stacey of his duties for the duration of the tour, giving him the green light to participate. Bob Anderson, the Director of the Navy Office of Information, reportedly told US that “[the Navy] can sometimes make exceptions for it and find somebody else to do those jobs.” Stacey reportedly tells US, “[The Navy] has been 100% flexible with me with “American Idol,” and they’ve been gems – a huge support base for me.” The tour, featuring this season’s Top 10 finalists, kicks off July 6 in Sunrise, Florida.

AVRIL’S COVER-UP: Rocker Avril Lavigne performed a mini-concert of her own on a rooftop in Times Square on Wednesday, and MTV.COM caught up with the singer before the show to ask about her provocative cover image on the new issue of Blender magazine. The photo shows what appears to be a topless Lavigne, strategically covered with a banner headline which reads, “Hell Yeah, I’m Hot!” Avril reportedly tells MTV, “Actually, I’m not topless on the cover. I was wearing a tube top, and they just kind of put a banner on top of it.” Still, Avril admits she had a wild time shooting the cover. “The Blender shoot was really fun because it was super rock and roll — we had a bottle of of [whiskey] and ate cupcakes,” she reportedly said. “Everyone was super cool. It was definitely a different kind of photo shoot for me.” Avril’s “hotness” was recently gauged by Maxim magazine, who ranked her as # 15 on their “Hot 100” list.

I BELIEVE I CAN FLY (AMONG OTHER THINGS): Another musician has raised eyebrows over a magazine piece, although for a very different reason. R. Kelly, still awaiting trial on criminal charges on charges of having sex with an underage child, tells the spring/summer issue of Hip-Hop Soul Times magazine that he is “the [Muhammad] Ali of today. I’m the Marvin Gaye of today. I’m the Bob Marley of today. I’m the Martin Luther King, or all the other greats that have come before us. And a lot of people are starting to realize that now.” When asked about the bold statement, Kelly’s publicist reportedly tells THE CHICAGO SUN TIMES that he was misunderstood: “He doesn’t think he’s Martin Luther King. He’s comparing the fact that he is a prolific songwriter of his time; now it’s turned into something else. Whatever Rob said, any way they can stick it to him. If he breathes it’s a problem.” Kelly, aka Ali-Gaye-Marley-King will be in court in Chicago Friday for a hearing in the child-sex/pornography matter.

A ‘RIGHTEOUS’ PAIRING: And finally, a big casting announcement from Cannes: VARIETY reports that revered actors Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino will reunite on the big screen in “Righteous Kill,” in which the two stars will play cops chasing down a serial killer. One of the film’s producers, Randall Emmett, said the idea for the film originated from the two actors’ desire to co-star. “They’re friends, and this really all got started from that,” he said, adding, “This is an event in world history. They were in two scenes in ‘Heat.’ In this movie, they are in the whole thing together.” Both actors starred in “The Godfather: Part II” but had no scenes together. “Righteous Kill” is being directed by Jon Avnet (“Fried Green Tomatoes”), and shooting will reportedly begin in Connecticut on August 6.

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