Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009 | 2 a.m.
If You Go
- Who: Barry Manilow
- When: 7:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday beginning March 5-28, May 1-30, June 4-6, July 2-18
- Where: Paris Theatre at Paris Las Vegas
- Tickets: $95 to $250; manilowparis.com
Where do you go after “Ultimate”?
If you’re Las Vegas headliner Barry Manilow, whose current Las Vegas act is called “Ultimate Manilow,” you head to Paris.
Paris Las Vegas, that is: Manilow announced Tuesday that he’s packing up and headed for the heart of the Strip with an all-new show of his mostly-old hits. Tickets went on sale Tuesday, and an online auction for front-row seats is taking bids starting at $295.
“This is an exciting day,” says the 66-year-old singer-songwriter-arranger, calling from New York, where he appeared on the “Today” show Tuesday and will help light the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center tonight. Manilow seems somewhat bemused by the amount of interest. “There’s a lot of interest in what’s happening with entertainment in Vegas,” he says, with convincing humility.
“It was time for a change,” Manilow says simply about the shift in venues. “And the Paris people were interested. I just wanted to flip things around a little bit.”
Manilow insists on expressing his gratitude to his home away from home — his final shows at the Las Vegas Hilton are Dec. 28-30.
“The experience I had at the Hilton was the greatest five years I can remember,” says Manilow, who has consistently been one of the top-selling acts in town. “I will always look back and be very, very grateful to these people at the Las Vegas Hilton who were so beautiful to me.”
Manilow is moving to the very heart of the Strip.
“It never even dawned on me that we were anywhere away from the heart of Las Vegas” at the Hilton, he says. “But going over there (to the Paris) and I realized, ‘Wow, this is like Times Square or something.’ ”
Manilow says he’ll bring along his backup singers, and hints that he may expand his longtime band. There will be some changes to the 1,500-seat Paris Theatre, which has been dark since the musical “The Producers” folded in February 2008.
“I really did love the room when I checked it out,” Manilow says. “We’re not demolishing it, but we are making changes to the structure of the room. And the people at the Paris wanted to do their own restructuring on the showroom.”
For the as-yet-untitled new show, Manilow hired director/choreographer Jeffrey Hornaday, whose credentials Manilow calls “just hair-raising” — Hornaday staged world tours for Madonna and Paul McCartney, as well as one of the “High School Musical” movies. Manilow says they have sketched out and storyboarded “a beginning, middle and end” for the staging.
“I wanted to make it romantic,” Manilow says of the upcoming show. “I thought, you know, Paris is the most romantic city, and I’ve got this new album coming out called ‘The Greatest Love Songs of All Time,’ and all this was kind of telling me where it wanted to go. I just decided I want to make this the most beautiful production I know how to create. So, of course I’m going to sing ‘Looks Like We Made it,’ of course I’m going to be doing all the hits. But they’re going to look more beautiful.”
Manilow says he’ll leave space to wing it — spontaneity is rare in the big headliner shows. “The audiences in Las Vegas are very kind to me, and they allow me to do whatever I want to do,” he says. “I know they want to hear the hits, so I give them as many as I can. But whenever I want to throw in some obscure album cut, they are fine with it. There are blocks in the middle of the show, where I said, ‘guys just give me some gorgeous lighting and leave me alone to play around.’ ”
Manilow recently released his third Christmas album, “In the Swing of Christmas,” with a jazz-trio format — at one point a multitracked Manilow becomes a 21-voice caroling choir.
“I love these things,” Manilow says. “The first one was kind of a romantic one, and the second one was a big-band album. What I like about (Christmas songs) is the songwriting of that style — Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, ‘White Christmas,’ ‘Home for the Holidays’ ...”
Manilow’s original intent was to mentor and showcase a young musician — he calls pianist Matt Herskowitz “the new Dave Brubeck, a brilliant young guy who plays piano like he has four hands.” When even Manilow didn’t have the juice to land Herskowitz a contract in the current market, it turned into a Christmas album.
When he began his Vegas run, Manilow says, he would fly back to sleep in his Palms Spring home after every show. “That got to be a bit extravagant, so now I stay in Vegas during the run.”
Manilow, always forward-thinking about merchandise — you can buy Manilow water and wine and the glasses to drink them in and even a thong (a “B-string”) to wear while you’re drinking them — has Paris-branded T-shirts, tote bags and key chains available for pre-order.