Celine Dion in "A New Day"


If you waited this long to see Celine Dion at Caesars Palace, you probably waited too long.

At least you'll miss "A New Day." There are 12 more performances through Oct. 14, then another 13 from Nov. 29 to Dec. 15, before the Canadian superstar moves on to a world tour and new challenges.

Each of the 25 shows is sure to bring an early Christmas to ticket brokers on the "secondary market." The marketing blitzkrieg that's sure to surround the Nov. 13 arrival of her new album, "Taking Chances," will only rub your face in it.

But take heart, fans. Returning to the Colosseum last week after a mere 10-day break, the singer told the audience, "This is what I'm missing." This late in the game, people might presume she's "been there, done that," Dion volunteered. But the truth, she claimed, was that even a short absence made the heart grow fonder.

"I have a solution," Dion added. "You should come with me (to the recording studio)."

Here's another solution. The speech can support a theory that's been floated, and now can be fueled by the producers still not owning up to Cher as a future attraction. Is it possible that once she unpacks the suitcase again, Dion might carry on at the Colosseum?

It would be easy to return on a more casual and occasional basis, minus the cast of 50 dancers and the theatrical production numbers. Judging by their response, fans wouldn't feel ripped off if there was less dancing and more "Oprah"-style patter.

The mere admission that the star has learned to enjoy the routine is the biggest change since the show opened in March 2003. During the media frenzy surrounding the launch, Dion seemed to be a passive force in this giant endeavor; more fulfilled by being a new mom than the applause that provides the life force of many a Vegas trouper.

But she grew into "A New Day" over the years, and for better or worse the show evolved into more of the diva showcase people expected at the outset: an upscale pop show with some artsy flourishes, not the swing-for-the fences collaboration with Cirque du Soleil director Franco Dragone that often tried too hard.

Some early mistakes disappeared quickly. It's been a long time since Dion flew on a harness rigging, or dressed up like the "Pat" character on "Saturday Night Live," with slicked-back hair and hitched-up, man-boy suspenders.

The singer now sports long hair, a soft look and several displays of evening attire. Musicians join her onstage instead of hiding under the giant space station of a stage.

Other changes replaced the audacious with safe and sure-footed, but more ordinary choices. The show now opens with -- wouldya believe it? -- the title song "A New Day" instead of the solitary, a capella take on "Nature Boy." The standards "Fever" and "At Last" were replaced in May 2006 with a now-common tech trick, splicing in Frank Sinatra to help croon "All the Way."

And the homestretch now celebrates the cast as a bonded unit with the Ike & Tina Turner classic "River Deep -- Mountain High." Dragone would have found it cheesy back in '03. Now, he probably realizes the show needed an energy that had been stifled in its overproduced infancy.

The world's largest hi-def screen no longer steals the show as it did before Best Buy shoppers knew the difference between a 720p and 1080p TV. But Dragone's elegant spectacle still makes the jaw drop now and then: The Magritte paintings coming to life while Dion croons "If I Could" on the stage steps, or the "floating bride" in front of a rolling moon for "My Heart Will Go On."

That's the last song now, and I kind of miss the old encore, "What A Wonderful World." "A New Day" opened the week of the Iraq invasion, so Dion gave it a bittersweet twist that served as a daily reminder; her version of "Tie A Yellow Ribbon." The singer spoke from her heart on opening night, and again when Katrina struck New Orleans.

A war that's outlasted a long run in Vegas may not send gamblers back to the tables full of feel-good escapism, but it's worth mentioning maybe 25 more times.

 

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