The Barry Manilow who effortlessly holds centerstage in 2010 is a sleeker, simpler and more elegantly packaged version of the superstar than the one we’ve seen over the past 35 years. There’s the familiar semaphore arms and head thrown back in abandon as he continues to hit those money notes, but what’s gone is a lot of the amiable shtick that formed the other side of the Manilow coin.
At the Paris Theater, there’s no broad comedy, no visual excess, no campy dips into the past, none of the stuff his devoted followers (known as “Fanilows”) thrived on but that the average audience member sometimes found a bit hard to take. What you get in “Barry Manilow at Paris Las Vegas” is a smart-looking 66-year-old with great chops, belting out the catalogue of hits he released largely between 1975 and 1985. While this oeuvre puts him in the prime demographic for a Vegas audience, his previous longterm stint here, at the Hilton (2004-09), proved highly successful within his fan base but not outside it. With “Barry Manilow at the Paris,” he looks to appeal to more than just those urban women who’ve always adored him.
Director Jeffrey Hornaday makes sure Manilow is front and center in this expertly lit, tastefully costumed (by Vegas standards) production that is backed up by a first-rate group of musicians and singer-dancers. But if you contrast the current rendition of the obligatory final number, “Copacabana,” which emphasizes light and video wizardry, to the Hilton version, which had the star soaring out over the audience as a chorus of Carmen Miranda avatars danced below, you’ll have to conclude that part of the real Barry Manilow is now missing from this otherwise winning equation.