Wayne Newton usually performs with Frances Lee at his side. She was in front of him Monday night at Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace.
Midway through the opening of his previwes at the moated enclave, Newton walked over to his wonderful backup singer and longtime friend in the club’s VIP section.
“We just had leg surgery and we didn’t think she would be able to make it tonight,” Newton said, referring to the gospel singer who was for decades a force among backing vocalists. “But she is here and we’ve known each other longer than either of us want to talk about.”
The two dueted on “At This Moment,” a favorite from their days at Las Vegas Hilton, Stardust, Tropicana’s Tiffany Theater and countless road dates.
— John Katsilometes (@johnnykats) January 29, 2019
The moment highlighted Newton’s return to the stage at Caesars Palace after a 2 1/2-year stint at Windows Showroom at Bally’s that ended in December. Newton’s showtimes at the Barge are 8 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, with additional 8 p.m. performances are set for Valentine’s Day and select dates through March (check the Caesars Palace website for details).
Backed by a four-piece band headed up by veteran pianist and music director Mariano Longo, Newton has launched his preview period, with a formal VIP/media night opening still to be set.
This performance was filled with many of Newton’s friends, including Pia Zadora with her husband, Mike Jeffries; and former Windows Showroom managers Ken and Helene Walker. His mother-in-law, Marilyn McCrone; sister-in-law Tricia McCrone and her husband, Billy Brinton; and his wife, Kathleen, who (cough) plays an integral role in the performance.
Caesars Entertainment execs Jason Gastwirth, Chris Yancey, Chris Holdren Damian Costa and Paul Shlisky were also in the room.
After Monday’s performance, Newton said he plans to direct such renovations in the room as covering the moat to allow for seating.
The “rain wall” he’d talked of previously can be set up in the middle of the venue, just behind the VIP booths.
Newton, slimmed down and beaming, said, “I feel great, and I love the room. The trick is to play to all of the levels, because you have a lot of different seating areas. But it’s wonderful to be back at Caesars Palace.” Newton played the famed Circus Maximus showroom in three different residencies dating to the 1970s and ’80s.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter,@JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.