Las Vegas is thrilled that you're coming back, Celine. But can you speed it up? A city turns its worried eyes to you ...
After more than a year as an open secret, it was officially announced last week that Celine Dion will return to the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in March 2011, with an all-new show, a three-year contract and a hopeful town at her feet. Las Vegas locals don't have to like Dion's music to appreciate the small economy that crystallized around her during her unprecedented five-year Caesars residency. The ending of Dion's reign was like the passing of a presidential era, or the end of a benevolent dictator's regime.
Dion was unquestionably good for Vegas: The Colosseum was famously custom-built at a cost of $95 million for the performer, who has sold more than 200 million copies of her 25 albums in French and English. The singer proved to be a magnet (and a magnate), drawing celebrities and helping refresh the Las Vegas image. She was a one-woman destination, and a vibrant local micro-economy bloomed around her.
Her show, A New Day, took in more than $400 million at the box office and in merchandise, and the production employed hundreds—the 50 dancers, musicians and others visible onstage were just the tip of the iceberg. Tickets for the 2011 show went on sale last week, and it has already been announced that she'll be employing 31 musicians, a full orchestra and a band.
And Dion and her husband themselves were good for the local economy. "I love shopping. I live and work next to a shopping mall—what does that mean?" Dion told me, laughing, in an interview during the show's final week. It was no secret around town that her husband and manager, Rene Angelil, channeled quite a chunk of his wife's paycheck back to the casinos at the poker tables.
More than anything, Dion's show raised the bar for Vegas entertainers. And Vegas changed her. "I don't want to have the pretension to say that I changed Vegas," Dion told me. "I think Vegas was ready to evolve, and I arrived at the same time. When I came here, nothing was a sure thing. We came because we believed in [director-choreographer] Franco [Dragone] and the show and the dancers, and we got attached to each other. And then the success—people were coming night after night, year after year."
It's no surprise that she's coming back—it just can't happen soon enough for most of us.
Dion kept her Lake Las Vegas home—she told me, in her slightly wonky French-inflected English, that she wasn't moving her stuff out of the subterranean penthouse-styled warren of offices and conference rooms. "Just to clean my stuff here, all the crystal flowers and teddy bears and pictures that my fans give me ... We started to pack it up, and I told Rene, 'This is [son] Rene-Charles' home, he learned how to walk here. This is his childhood house. There's no way I'm packing.'"
So, yeah, we're quivering with anticipation. And hope. But a year is a long time to wait in this drop-dead economy.
And what if—dare I blaspheme?—What if Celine's next show ... sucks? What if the Dionasty is over?
Save us, Taylor! You're our only hope!