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Reinvigorated Carey returns ‘Mimi’ to Las Vegas Strip

Updated April 15, 2024 - 6:07 pm

Mariah Carey takes her hand to her ear early on Friday night at her show at Dolby Live. This means the whistle note is coming, and Carey hit it during “Emotions.”

From that moment, Carey tells her story through song in ‘The Celebration of Mimi Live in Las Vegas,” her latest stage show at the Park MGM Theater. The show Friday and Saturday were announced sellouts.

Carey, who has built a worldwide following, is back for her third residency in Las Vegas. Her previous stints have been “The Butterfly Returns” at the Colosseum and Caesars Palace from 2018-2020, and the Colosseum series “#1 To Infinity” from 2015-2017, which have solidified her relationship with the city.

Recently extended to 16 dates, “Celebration” is a more inspired variation of the Caesars show, thoughtful and creative with its autobiographical through-line. (MGM Resorts brass also signed with Live Nation Las Vegas for Usher’s production at Dolby Live, after he played the Colosseum, with terrific box-office and artistic results).

In “Celebration of Mimi,” Carey celebrates the 20th anniversary of the monster hit album, “The Emancipation of Mimi,” which has been certified seven-times platinum (1 million sales), spent 14 weeks atop the Billboard charts, and produced the hit singles “It’s Like That, “We Belong Together,” “Shake It Off,” and “Don’t Forget About Us.” All are featured in the new show.

Backed by eight dancers, a four-piece band, and three backing vocalists, Carey traverses her career in four acts. Each features a costume change and even a new mic (black, gold, white, and two golds). The superstar displays warmth and connection to the crowd, pointing to the hundreds of smartphone cameras trained on her from the front section.

The wardrobe nods to specific moments in Carey’s rise to international fame, the styling directed by Wilfredo Rosad and looks from Gaurav Gupta, Sophie Couture, Falguni Shane, Laura Basci, Robert Wun, among others.

The band burns, and the backing dancers, all guys, are impressively athletic (their heights seem to match at 6-feet-2 or 6-feet-3, the uniformity likely intentional).

Carey brings and all-star roster to Las Vegas. Daniel Moore is the production’s music director, Jana Thompkins creative director and choreographer, Ashley Seldon co-choreographer, and L.A. creative studio Human Person directing the lighting, set and content.

The performance has a Vegas flair, and it has had rich video production throughout Carey’s personal collection. The singer is flanked by circular stands, drawing attention to the middle of the stage. But this is not a totally Vegas-inspired show.

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“The idea was brought to me about doing a residency in Vegas, and I just thought, ‘Hm, do we want to do that?’” Carey is quoted in Rolling Stone. “I was going to do it traditionally. And then when I thought about doing the Celebration of Mimi and bringing back the songs — many of which I’d never performed — I just thought, ‘That’s the way to do it.’”

As noted in the publication’s backstage account of the production, Carey had attempted to retrieve the flashy, original “MIMI” sign from her “Adventures of Mimi” tour in 2006. Even a trip to a storage facility failed to yield the set piece.

So it’s a new “MIMI” sign with the familiar Mimi out front, celebrating the past while living in the moment.

“It’s like the emancipation never ends because I worked hard to get there,” Carey says. “Coming back to the residency and doing this, it’s something that I didn’t think I would do. And now, in the middle of it, I realize this is my essence.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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