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July 30, 2014

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REVIEW:

Manilow show gets update, and this time it’s ‘ultimate’

What’s still the same: energy and hits, hits, hits

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Sam Morris

Barry Manilow’s show at the Hilton has undergone a makeover and been renamed “Ultimate Manilow: The Hits,” but fan interaction and a focus on hits remain.

If You Go

  • Who: Barry Manilow
  • What: “Ultimate Manilow: The Hits”
  • When: 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday
  • Where: Las Vegas Hilton Showroom
  • Admission: $95-$225; 732-5755, www.lvhilton.com
  • Running time: Approximately 100 minutes

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The latest edition of Barry Manilow’s show at the Las Vegas Hilton is called “Ultimate Manilow: The Hits.” And true to its title, it’s crammed, stuffed, bulging with hits.

Basically a remodeled version of his previous revue (“Penultimate Manilow”?), it has a spiffed up stage, lighting that bathes everything in soap bubble hues and video screens brought up to competitive scale and quality. The showroom’s adjacent bar has been renamed the Ultimate Bar, and the gift shop merchandise, from Manilow merlot to shower wraps, all bears the Ultimate Manilow brand.

At first it seems as if Manilow’s predominantly ’70s-era pop songs have undergone a makeover, too — the show begins with a noisy dance remix-style overture. But Manilow’s one of the last remaining showbiz smarties, and he knows his fans wouldn’t stand for too much messing with the classics.

Emerging from an M-shaped door, backlighted in a cloud of fog (sort of like the alien in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”), Manilow begins the first of what seem like dozens of hits — “It’s a Miracle” dovetails with “Daybreak,” “Weekend in New England” and on and on. He’s also restored a longtime favorite part of the show, a romp through the commercial jingles he penned before pop stardom, and he Manilizes a string of hits from decades past, part of his series of successful “Greatest Songs” albums.

A theme of love lost and remembered drifts through the song selection, and the most affecting moments come when Manilow sings the most sentimental tunes to the simplest accompaniment.

But the real take-away of this show is that Manilow is a love object: A sizable contingent of his cult considers him erotic. (Remember, many women felt this way about Clay Aiken, too.) When a lyric happens to mention touching or being touched, hungry howls go up from the crowd. And when he makes rumpy-pumpy motions, it seems the roof may cave in.

Manilow invited a woman up for the now-customary slow dance to “This One’s for You,” and she wasted no time grabbing — and gripping — his Manilower area.

Manilow at 65 is a tireless performer. Relentless, even. He hits the notes and holds them, cheerily joshes himself and the fans, bops around the stage like a Barryonette. It was rumored that Manilow had his hips replaced a few years ago, but it seems more likely he has become entirely cyborg, because he whips through the show with barely a break for breath. Donny & Marie will want to up their Pilates sessions if they don’t want to look bad next to the old guy.

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