Eight years ago, Celine Dion was credited with having saved Las Vegas after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks threw the city’s tourism industry into a tailspin. The recession of 2009 did similar damage to Sin City’s economy and again, it’s the feisty Quebecois chanteuse to the rescue with a powerhouse show that has wide-ranging appeal.
Credit director Ken Ehrlich for working with Dion on a seductive package that includes lots of her past hits, a few daring ventures into solo art songs — like Jacques Brel’s “Ne me quitte pas” and Janice Ian’s “At Seventeen” — and some clever multimedia tricks such as a hologram duet with Stevie Wonder and a Celine-meets-Celine film duet to “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?”
The pseudo Cirque du Soleil spectacle that marred “A New Day” when it first opened in 2003 and gradually vanished over the years is nowhere in evidence — this is Celine, a 31-piece orchestra, a handful of backup singers and some classy visuals, courtesy of Sakchin Bessette and Melissa Weigel from Montreal’s Moment Factory.
Obviously an opening night crowd is going to be stacked with die-hard Dionistas, but even more cynical media types were blown away by the intensity of some of Dion’s performances. “Ne me quitte pas,” sung simply, but with devastating emotional effect, created a mid-show standing ovation and perhaps had some wondering when Dion would do an all-Brel album.
Ehrlich has structured the show to build steadily to a rousing finale version of “River Deep, Mountain High” which again brought the 4,000 plus crowd to their feet, leaving them putty in her hands for the obligatory, but surprisingly tasteful rendition of “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic.
Along the way, there’s also an amusing James Bond medley, a heartfelt tribute to Michael Jackson and enough variety to make this show score with the average Vegas visitor, not just the hard-core Dion fans.
Her last engagement at Caesars Palace ran for five years. Don’t be surprised if this one goes twice as long.