There are those who say Celine Dion's 2003 show in Las Vegas saved the city after the 9/11 slump, getting tourists to visit just for the purpose of seeing her show at the 4,100+-seat Colosseum at Caesars Palace, the spectacular theater built for her. She began a three-year residency with a new show there last month and they're saying the same thing about her power in this economy.
That 2003 venture, A New Day, ran for 700 performances over five years. Many people, like I did, found that show to be, simply, too much. There was too much going on, there was too much noise and too much movement. And, as directed by Franco Dragone, who directed most of Cirque's early shows, it was too much like one of those. Cirque may be terrific but all that stuff happening on the stage buried the star.
This new show really does signal a new day for Celine Dion and her fans and is very likely to bring her more and more devotees. In a word, her new show is gorgeous - gorgeous to watch and gorgeous to hear.
This time, she's backed by a 31-piece orchestra, three backup singers and some stunning lighting and scenic effects. Director Ken Ehrlich absolutely understands the basic truth that a beautiful voice in beautiful surroundings can mesmerize and audience without lots of action around her. She sings her hits, a fun medley of James Bond themes that encompasses all those hit songs (with the exception of Thunderball). A haunting version of Jacques Brel's "Ne me quitte pas" (The English version, called "If You Go Away," was a hit for Rod McKuen.) had some audience members wiping away tears. And her version of Janice Ian's "At Seventeen" was lovely, as was the seldom-heard Billy Joel "Lullaby (Good Night My Angel)."
The magic of technology allowed her to duet with Stevie Wonder and there was a tribute to Michael Jackson.
The finale was a rousing version of "River Deep, Mountain High" and the encore was, not surprisingly, "My Heart Will Go On." What was surprising about the latter was the water effect used while Dion sang. That and the other effects are courtesy of lighting director Yves Aucoin and The Lighting Factory in Montreal.
Musical Director Claude "Mego" Lemay has assembled the perfect orchestra and the singers, Elise Duguay, Dawn Cumberbatch and, especially, Barney Valsaint, complement Dion beautifully. Entr'acte, Valsaint does a terrific solo.
In all, this is Celine Dion as she's meant to be - her voice at the center of beautiful music and dazzling effects. I don't know if she can save Las Vegas but she sure can make beautiful music. This is one to add to your must-see list.