NEW ORLEANS — So, how was the opening night of Britney Spears' Circus tour? Well, here's how the first 20 minutes went ... that ought to give you a pretty good idea:

A red curtain descends upon the stage. Music starts pounding — the drumbeat of the apocalypse — and keeps building, until a lone ballerina and a mime appear. The mime is clutching a piece of chain-link fence, which he begins twirling faster and faster, until it turns into a geometric square. Then three jugglers and a little person take the stage, then Shaolin monks in black robes, who do a martial-arts routine, complete with kitanas and spinning axe kicks. Then clowns come out with nunchucks. They're followed by acrobats and gymnasts in long flowing robes, performing a routine to the music from "Kill Bill." Then everyone — mime, clowns, jugglers, little person and monks — do a sort of samba, and then Perez Hilton shows up on the video screens to deliver a monologue while dressed as Queen Elizabeth. Then Britney appears and murders him with a crossbow.

And then the show starts. Seriously.

Yes, welcome to Britney's Circus, a big, huge, loud, funny, nonsensical three-ring affair that includes everything under the big top — even an actual big top.

Broken down into four acts — "Circus," "House of Fun," "Freakshow/Peepshow" and "Electro Circ"— the two-hour show is every set designer and choreographer's wet dream, or nightmare, or both. There are literally dozens of costume changes, dancers of all shapes and sizes and acrobats and set pieces that fly about willy-nilly. (This is surely the first concert in history to feature cholos on tricycles, a Bollywood number and a pair of martial-arts routines). It's truly a sight to behold ... the biggest show under one roof.

(Take a look at photos of Britney's elaborate Circus sets and costumes here.)

At times, Britney herself is almost dwarfed by the spectacle. She looks great in her myriad of outfits (Genie! Drill Sergeant! Kinda Stripper!) And she can still move with the best of them ... it's just, well, she's almost lost in the sheer hugeness of the production around her.

Of course, there were still plenty of highlights — the one-two opening combo of "Circus" and "Piece of Me" was great, as Brit descended from the sky (and got trapped in a gilded cage), strutted and popped, the electro beats whirring around the arena and the lights popping.

"Radar" was sultry, as Spears donned a sparkly Wonderbra and did a pole dance. And as she laughed and blew kisses to the cheering audience during the night's lone quiet moment, "Everytime" (which, it should be mentioned, she sang perched on the handle of a floating umbrella), she seemed genuinely touched by the warm reception given to her by the fans at the New Orleans Arena.

Still, by the time the third act ("Freakshow," which showcased her naughty side) rolled around, it was almost difficult to pick her out from all the noise. Again, this has less to do with Spears than it does the massive production she's surrounded herself with, though it must be said that her version of "I'm a Slave 4 U," complete with flames and a fierce dance routine, managed to rise above all the ephemera.

And by the time she said good night with another great one-two wallop ("Womanizer" and a reprise of "Circus"), dressed in a sexy policewoman outfit, she looked exhausted. But happy. And why not? She brought the circus to her hometown, and it was a huge, sold-out, screaming success. It probably just would've benefited from a little more Britney Spears, that's all.