Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2003 | 8:54 a.m.
When international superstar Celine Dion is away, international superstar Sir Elton John will play.
John and Caesars Palace President Mark Juliano announced a three-year, 75-performance agreement Tuesday that will put the singer of such hits as "Rocket Man" and "Crocodile Rock" at the center of The Colosseum's severely raked stage when Dion is not performing.
"I am so excited about what we are going to do," said the 56-year-old John, sitting at a table in the showroom and flanked by Juliano and director David LaChappelle. "This will be a totally different show from Celine's."
Dion's production, "A New Day ...," debuted in March. She is contracted for 200 performances.
Ticket's to the diva's show range from $87 to $225.
John will top Vegas' most expensive night out with tickets that will sell for $100 to $250 (not including taxes and handling charges).
Tickets to John's "The Red Piano," so named because of the color of the piano he will play, went on sale this morning. The first performances will be Feb. 13 through Feb. 22.
Juliano said if John's show is completely sold out for the run, it will gross $61 million. He declined to say how much John is being paid.
John's dates at the $95 million Colosseum won't prevent other mega-star entertainers from performing there when John and Dion are away.
Although John will be the main substitute headliner, Juliano said the venue will continue to showcase other world-class performers.
Recently Gloria Estefan appeared there. Jerry Seinfeld and Mariah Carey also have performed at The Colosseum.
John is one of the world's most successful touring artists, with worldwide record sales topping 200 million.
During his run at Caesars he will be backed up by his musicians of many years, guitarist Davey Johnstone, keyboardist Guy Babylon, bass guitarist Bob Birch, percussionist John Mahon and drummer Nigel Olsson.
John says he wants his to be a "must-see" show in the vein of Dion's.
"I want people to say, 'You have to go and see that show,' " he said. "That's what I want to make it. I can't do this show anywhere else in the world but here."
Caesars has an exclusive arrangement for the production.
John promised the show "is going to be fun, packed with music and it's going to be full of poignancy."
Few details were revealed about the production itself, except that there will be at least three costume changes.
"That's a really important part of the show," John said.
When asked to give a hint about what visuals fans might expect, he refused.
"It's like saying to a bride, 'Can I come and see your dress before the wedding day?' " John said. "It's going to be fabulous, totally different."
John, once noted for outrageous costumes and signature glasses, said the show will be half production and half concert.
"At an hour and 45 minutes, that's a short concert for me. I'm just getting started," said John, dressed in a gray designer pin-striped suit and tinted sunglasses.
He said the show will be a concert with great visuals.
"I want to do something refreshing for me," John said. "This is a new challenge."
LaChappelle described it as "a marriage" between a concert and a production.
The production element, he said, is "icing on the cake."
The real show is John, who told reporters Tuesday's press conference was the first time he had ever been in the showroom, built to Dion's specifications.
"I haven't been in this room before," he said. "But I've heard all about it."
John said it didn't take him long to accept Caesars' offer after it was made.
"I haven't really done a production show since the '70s," John said. "There are only so many things I can do on tour -- I can tour with my band, tour solo or tour with (Billy) Joel."
John said he's looking forward to spending time in Las Vegas. While here, he says he wants to see other shows, such as Gladys Knight at Flamingo Las Vegas and "O" at Bellagio.
He noted that he has performed many times in Vegas in the past.
"It's always fantastic," he said. "Las Vegas has been synonymous with 'great' through the years.
"The facilities that are coming out now are making this an exciting place to be. It's really coming back to being the Entertainment Capital of the World."
John said his tours often are one-night engagements and so he's looking forward to staying put for a while.
"But don't ask me to do 200 nights," he said.