Monday, April 14, 2014 | 10:58 p.m.
It was all about singing and wonderful music. It was all about nonstop hits from start to finish. It was all about having fun onstage and in the audience.
International singing star Olivia Newton-John cooked up the perfect menu for success in the opening week of her show “Summer Nights” at the Flamingo and deservedly won a standing ovation after her finale.
“What an amazing show,” Marie Osmond told me on her way to the red carpet to welcome Olivia to the Donny & Marie Showroom. “I had so much fun sitting in the audience and singing along to every song.”
It’s a no-frills show, so nothing distracts from the British-born, Australia-raised singer and her songs — just an all-white set to contrast with the mainly black outfits Olivia wears for the easygoing, comfortable musical romp through her life’s journey. Olivia has one female and two male backup singers working with a high-energy five-piece band of two guitars, drums, a saxophone and a piano.
Olivia wraps a sparkling, sequined, silver, floor-length cloak around her black-on-black leather jacket pants ensemble and changes into one knockout gold gown. The videomontages from her career, from dancing with Gene Kelly in “Xanadu” to John Travolta in “Grease,” kept the flow of the show rolling along. Even the original 1981 “Physical” video is there.
As I said, it’s all about the music and the songs, and she served it up as great as she’s being doing all these years. Her voice is in fine form — “perfect pitch and never missed a note,” Marie said.
Olivia’ setlist is some 20 hits and covers: “Have You Never Been Mellow,” “Xanadu,” “Magic,” “Suddenly,” “A Little More Love,” “Sam,” “If Not For You,” “Let Me Be There,” “Please Mr. Please,” “Country Roads,” “If You Love Me,” “Physical,” “Cry Me a River,” “Send in the Clowns,” “Not Gonna Give Into It,” “Sandra Dee,” “You’re the One That I Want,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “Summer Nights,” “We Go Together,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “I Honestly Love You.”
Olivia will be at the Donny & Marie Showroom through the end of the year whenever brother-and-sister Donny and Marie Osmond are away on tour fulfilling runs in Atlantic City and Chicago and their string of Christmas concerts. “I’m very happy we’re leaving our showroom in very good hands,” Marie added.
It was a faultless introductory week of Olivia’s on-and-off residency. I loved her casual, comfortable chats and gentle humor bandied with the audience while seated on stools onstage close to them. When she returns May 6, she’s here on select “Summer Nights” through Aug. 30. New dates for the fall will be announced mid-summer.
It was a fun and full first Las Vegas week for Olivia and her husband John Easterling, who celebrated his birthday while here. John, friend Rod Mickel and Michael Caprio, Olivia’s publicist, braved the 855-foot Sky Jump from the side of the Stratosphere.
They watched “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace, where Olivia posed for photographs with host the Gazillionaire and his zany assistant Penny Pibbets. Earlier, they met up with Sir Elton John at his Colosseum headliner show “Million Dollar Piano” and celebrated at his nearby new champagne lounge Fizz. Olivia also toasted with bubbly on a ride aboard the High Roller, the world’s tallest observation wheel, at the Linq.
“It’s been quite a whirlwind week,” Olivia told me at the Flamingo pool after-party. “But we also got in our own private picnic up in Red Rock Canyon.
Olivia Newton-John Physical
“I’m enjoying everything about Las Vegas. It’s great to be back here. I have many happy memories when I was here in the ’70s and ’80s, even though everything has changed. Next time when we’re here much longer, I’m bringing the dogs, and we’ll be running with them. We’ve already mapped out all their parks.
“I was the happiest with the show. I had fun doing it. I love the room, as it’s really intimate with the audience. It all went perfectly. I loved doing the nightclub number of Julie London’s ‘Cry Me a River’ in a smoky voice. But every song we put in the show is a real favorite of mine.”
Joining in the red carpet festivities, the show and the after-party were “Glee’s” Dot Marie Jones with her partner Bridget Casteen, actor and singer Joey Lawrence, fashion and TV icon RuPaul (not in drag), members of “Million Dollar Quartet” at Harrah’s, plus her songwriting partners and producers John and Pat Farrar. Our thanks to Denise Truscello for all the premiere-night photos.
Twice this past year, Olivia’s plans to start her Las Vegas residency were halted, first with the death of her sister Rona from a long battle with cancer and then when she returned to Australia for the opening of her cancer wellness center.
“Part of the ticket price at the Flamingo is donated to our brand-new state-of-the-art wellness center and cancer hospital,” she told me. “It kind of completes the circle for me. It’s two things I really care about. I care about people’s well being and, being a cancer survivor myself, I’m really excited to be able to give back.
“I don’t know if this maybe means the end of touring so everybody can come visit me on the Strip. I’m going to see how it feels to be in one place. I’m really looking forward to our dates through the end of the year. We don’t live that far away, so we can come home in between and resume my country life.”
She summed up: “Being in a really wonderful showroom, which has a great atmosphere, is absolutely perfect for me now at this time of my life.”
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.
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Transport yourself to the opulent and excessive Roman Empire at Caesars Palace. But the ever-changing Caesars Palace is far from ancient. The hotel and casino is constantly raising the bar for what visitors can expect in a Vegas resort experience.
Caesars Palace features 3,348 rooms and suites in five towers, including the new luxury boutique Nobu Hotel and Restaurant, which opened Feb. 4, 2013, in the totally remodeled Centurian Tower. Caesars features 129,000 square feet of gaming space, including the Strip’s largest poker room and a 250-seat sports book. Other amenities include about two dozen restaurants, a four-level shopping mall, four pools, a spa, Pure and Poetry nightclubs and Pussycat Dolls.
Dining options include restaurants from world-renown chefs Guy Savoy, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsay and, on Feb. 4, 2013, Nobu Matsuhisa.
You never know what characters you’ll run into at Caesars with regular performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Bette Midler, Elton John and maybe even the emperor himself.