MIKE WEATHERFORD: Knowing pair sees promise in new protege


“It’s a thrill to see the birth of an artist,” says Rene Angelil.

He should know. But this time he’s not talking about the woman who would become his wife and most famous client, the one who made him cry when she sang in front of his desk at the age of 12.

“I’ve been in this business, me personally, for 52 years. I’ve seen a lot of things,” Angelil says. And now he’s out to remind Las Vegas that his show business experience extends beyond his spouse, Celine Dion.

He and Dion have a new project on the Strip: singing impressionist Veronic DiCaire. She has become a big success in Canada and France under their tutelage, and they now hope to make a Las Vegas star of her with a new show at Bally’s.

“When you see her, you understand why Celine and me decided to invest in this artist,” he says. “This is another type of artist, but she has some of the same qualities that Celine has.”

Angelil’s story has become show business legend. He was a record producer and agent known in Quebec since his years of singing with a 1960s pop group called the Baronets. But he had just lost his main client, Canadian star Ginette Reno, and was “wounded and humiliated” (as Dion recalls in her autobiography) the day Dion’s mother brought her in to sing for him.

He invested everything in the young singer, and it paid off to the point that he became synonymous with her.

“I was pretty lucky with Celine,” the 71-year-old Angelil says with some understatement. But success doesn’t mean a total retreat into a life of golf and poker.

Angelil recalls that during one of Dion’s first Caesars Palace engagements in 1997, he and his wife went to see rising star Danny Gans at the Rio. The late impressionist so amazed them, they went back to see him three or four times.

Two years later, they even put up the money to produce their own Danny Gans, impressionist Andre-Philippe Gagnon, at The Venetian in 1999. The show never really caught fire. It’s clear in retrospect, Angelil agrees, that Gagnon’s act was too similar to be right across the street from The Mirage, where Gans was at the height of his powers.

This time, it’s different. “I have that feeling, it’s a Danny Gans type of feeling that is happening.”

You might realize by now the Angelils are big fans of impressionists. They took Golden Nugget headliner Gordie Brown on the road to open Dion’s last world tour.

In Las Vegas, “Veronic: Voices” will be a test of the whole genre, or whether an era has passed. DiCaire has the skills, to be sure. But time will tell whether the basic concept of a singing impressionist — even one who offers a new world of female voices instead of the usual suspects — is something that still intrigues ticket buyers.

It must be said that “Veronic: Voices” is a modestly budgeted show, with backup dancers but no live musicians. The Angelils’ accountant could probably chalk up their share of the investment (they persuaded AEG Live and Caesars Entertainment to co-produce) under “walking around money.”

But DiCaire’s French-speaking audiences already paid back Angelil’s latest gamble, seeing the same elusive star quality he sees in her.

“She has everything to be a star,” Angelil says. “She’s disciplined, she’s serious, she’s passionate about what she does. To become a superstar it’s not only the voice. You have to have all these things. Talent, determination, be ready to work, ready to understand.”

He is a guy who should know.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.