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August 29, 2014

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Celine Dion’s show is a masterpiece of majesty, elegance and amazing duets

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Steve Marcus

Singer Celine Dion holds the microphone toward the audience as she performs during her opening night at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace on March 15, 2011. The performance is the beginning of a three-year residency at the venue.

Editor’s note: The follow review contains spoilers, so continue reading at your own risk.

A magnificent masterpiece! Those are the only words to describe the magical and memorable moment when Celine Dion drops pop princess status and takes on a monarch’s mantle as legendary icon in her new spectacular at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. The curtains part at the halfway mark of the show to reveal Celine singing at rear center stage after one more of the fantastic music interludes to permit her the seven fabulous designer gown changes. Almost simultaneously, a second Celine appears right in the center of the theater singing, too.

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Robin Leach's Vegas DeLuxe

3/15/11: Celine Dion at The Colosseum

Celine Dion's opening night at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on March 15, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Celine Dion Opening Night

Singer Celine Dion performs during opening night at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace on March 15, 2011. The performance is the beginning of a three-year residency at the venue. Launch slideshow »

It’s the duet you never ever dreamed could happen. The audience goes into a mesmerized “is it live or recorded” trance. Celine glows with radiance as the new Queen of the Strip and nobly glides slowly down the aisle. Nobody would dare reach out to touch her or interrupt the beauty of her strong, powerful voice. It’s such a reverential and awesome moment that it’s certain to cause spine-tingling and hair-raising experiences for every Colosseum spectator.

The silence is so intense you could hear a pin drop, except for the audible intake of breath as the audience inhales. You suddenly realize the image of Celine onstage is a hologram and a very remarkable, uncanny and extraordinary one. It takes the entire song for heaven-sent Celine to walk down the theater aisle in a bridal white, floor-length, robed gown to reach the stage steps. When she finishes the song and the applause and standing ovation have quieted, Celine breaks the tension beautifully, joking: “You should know how long it took to teach her to get it right!”

With the audience still reeling from that special effect, Celine produces another brilliant surprise, saying that her favorite duet over the years was with superstar singer Stevie Wonder. The curtain lifts on cue to show the pop prince at his piano! It’s the perfect double whammy. His hologram is so real, you’re very hard put to even dare think that it isn’t, as the real Celine and the imaged Stevie sing and chat.

All of that wonder and excitement takes place in just one 10-minute section of the show. Yet the other 85 are just as filled with surprises and effects. It’s way more than the producers ever promised. AEG’s head honcho, producer John Meglen, wasn’t kidding when he told me to wait patiently for the surprises. Director Ken Ehrlich only told me half the story of what magic he was conjuring. It’s the show you never want to end. Or at least have it performed twice nightly so you can sit through it again for another 95 minutes.

Celine has singlehandedly redefined class and elegance in onstage performances. Don’t be disappointed that there’s no over-the-top Las Vegas flying acrobatics, trampoline jumps, outrageous comedy video clips or Cirque du Soleil-like performers dodging firebombs. This is solely Celine, her songs and her music -- all totally pure and infinitely intimate. There is one song with billowing smoke; otherwise, you’ll feel you as if you’re in the recording studio with her or she’s singing to you in your living room.

That intense level of star contact with the audience is awesome and riveting. In the 11 years I have lived in Las Vegas and the 35 before that in New York, I’ve never felt that level of intimacy achieved onstage. Maybe Elvis had a similar spark, but not to this height. Maybe Garth Brooks comes mighty close at Encore Theater at the Wynn. Very few others own that magic to reach this ultimate gold standard. Up close or on the HDTV projection with Celine, you cry, too, as the tears roll down her face with the extraordinary emotion she brings to the lyrics.

Her 31-piece orchestra and band with three backup singers are the platinum-perfect accompaniment on their six-part modular stage for the 22-song set, and all are similar geniuses in their own right. The orchestra is as lush as could be, the band as tight as could be and the singers as balanced as could be. In the choreographed chorale for the Michael Jackson salute, the stage is filled with 30-plus singer finger-clicking in Radio City Music Hall high-kick precision to remind of The King of Pop’s production wizardry. The floating in-and-out stages move silently in an interlocking jigsaw wonder as if they are dancing silently.

Celine Dion Arrives at Caesars Palace

Celine Dion's arrival at Caesars Palace on Feb. 16, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Celine Dion's 2009 Taking Chances World Tour

Celine Dion's 2009 Taking Chances World Tour. Launch slideshow »

Ne Me Quitte Pas

The show opens with what us sated Las Vegas showgoers might groan over -- an obligatory video clip. But this is a brilliant edit as you go around the world in 80 seconds with Celine on her most recent global tour. The high-octane video roars along, starting from the finale show at Caesars back on Dec. 15, 2007, and has shots in the limo going back to the family’s home in Lake Las Vegas with young son Rene-Charles asking plaintively that night, “What do we do now? Where do we go now?”

Husband, father and manager Rene Angelil and Celine promise him that they will return one day to Caesars, and with that, the video switches to her arrival here a month ago as the curtain rises to reveal Celine herself now on March 15, 2011. (Celine believes the number 5 is her lucky number and thus everything she does is keyed to a 5.)

In another brief video clip to cover a gown change later in the show, there’s incredibly personal, never-before-seen video portraits at home soon after the successful hospital delivery of twin boys Eddy and Nelson conceived after five failed in-vitro attempts. There’s another precious moment captured with Celine wide awake on their private jet nursing one of the newborn twins and Rene fast asleep with the other twin in the same position.

In the show opener, Celine stands in a shimmering gold and ivory Armani gown at center stage with the world’s largest pure white billowing curtain. It flies away instantly in a split second as if Criss Angel pulled the ultimate Mindfreak vanish. The stage is filled wall to wall with the orchestra, band and three backup singers. It’s the first wow moment of the night.

As she sings the first number with tear-filled eyes, 11 painting-sized video screens drop from the ceiling amid threads of burning candleholders to show how she sung it over the years at different ages. It’s all a very original and dramatic impact, particularly as the orchestra’s six-sectioned platform floats forward to the audience.

Celine, who also wears stunning outfits from Versace, Givenchy, Balmain and Elie Saab, is refreshingly candid talking with the audience at the show’s first possible moment: “This is a dream come true. We are overjoyed at what has happened and that we are back at Caesars. But I am still nervous about it.” And in a reference to Rene’s poker-playing skills at the tables: “It’s an even bigger dream come true for Rene!” Celine admits to gaining 60 pounds while pregnant, but the hard work of the show and the parenting had her back in fine form in no time.

The 42-year-old singer who celebrates her birthday in two weeks said she can’t believe how fast the time has gone since they left and how fast Rene-Charles, now 10, has grown. “Now I have the best of both worlds looking after my four boys (that includes Rene!), being with the family and still performing. This is a gift from heaven,” she said. When she sings “Lullaby” to say goodnight to the babies, she shows the recent Las Vegas baptism of the twins, and everybody agrees with her that “this is the best there is.”

Her voice is sent from the angels. It’s the best it’s ever been since she was 13 and scored with four albums by age 16. The break from performing has made it stronger and more sensational. In the setting of this show, it rings as a crystal clear phenomenon of confidence, poise and power. The music matches Celine’s majesty, too. A classical violinist plays while strolling through the audience. Three amazing cello players rock out on one of the side areas of the stage. The five brass boys onstage step right into the audience while playing. Everybody is having fun, and it adds yet another strategic plus as to why the show is unique and solely about songs and sounds.

Her “You Are the Reason” is sung against one of the most dramatic wall drops of blossoming giant flowers and a staggering chandelier, a genius artistic approach to set decoration. You can’t help be wowed by that, but then Celine does her music tribute to my hero, MI5 super agent James Bond. Now she’s in a black sequined gown for “Goldfinger,” and the mammoth video wall is alive with what must be 200 feet of shattering colorful animation that should start the next 007 movie. Look closely and you’ll spot Rene-Charles as the young secret agent. It’s cutting-edge technology for a total multimedia environment created by Moment Factory of Montreal, who also dealt another winning card with the water screen. Every image, filmed with special cameras or created electronically, seen in The Colosseum was created specifically for the new show.

When she sings “The Music Never Ends,” you want her show to never end. When she sits with a solo guitarist onstage inches from the front rows to sing Janis Ian’s hit “Seventeen” and then goes into “Beauty & the Beast” with Barnev Valsaint, you are in a hypnotic state wondering just how far she can push the buttons of emotion. She answers with the ultimate tearjerker of Ne Me Quitte Pas (Don’t Leave Me) by writer Jacques Brel. The tears pour down her face and that of the audience.

Celine dominates the stage, rules the arena and commands the crowd with “All By Myself” and in more breathtaking moments at centers stage with just a piano and her longtime music director. The superlatives aren’t enough to keep up with this. Celine zips into a gold sequined tuxedo jacket and tight leather pants for her Michael Jackson tribute, saying, “He changed my life. I learned English to sing like him.” For “Man in the Mirror,” she’s backed by an 18-member finger-snapping choir and one closing shot of a smiling Michael in a picture frame.

The finale leads from “River Deep Mountain High” into her final wardrobe change of a green, bare-shouldered turquoise gown as she sings the Titanic love song “My Heart Will Go On.” It’s an appropriate ending. The show is huge, totally terrific and titanic itself. If tonight is the night she decides to say she’s staying longer than planned in Las Vegas, we wouldn’t be at all surprised. Celine reigns triumphant and will continue to do so for the next three years and possibly five. No other words can do the show justice: a magnificent masterpiece.

Welcome back, Celine!

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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