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Celine Dion returns with more personal production featuring 31-piece orchestra

Celine Dion’s son is out bowling with friends, and her two babies are asleep under their grandmother’s watchful eye. It’s time to rehearse for the show thousands of fans and two corporations spent five years waiting for.

"When I talk about protection, it means in every sense of the word," the once and future Colosseum star said last week. "When I come home, I’m with my family. My mom is here, I have family members who are taking care of my babies. I don’t have to worry, which is a big thing for me.

"I have to bring the best of me on that show, (so) I don’t have to worry about my kids upstairs. I know they’re very well taken care of. That’s part of my performance."

On Tuesday, the 42-year-old singer unveils her new show on the stage where she performed "A New Day" for five years. She and director Ken Ehrlich took time recently to discuss the new effort and the changes in her life since the sun set on "A New Day" in December 2007.


Fans worldwide followed the Canadian superstar through six in-vitro fertilization attempts and a miscarriage, before a happy ending for the star and husband-manager Rene Angelil: the December birth of twin sons Nelson and Eddy (the names aren’t an homage to the 1930s movie star, but separate tributes to Nelson Mandela and late songwriter-producer Eddy Marnay).

"Those dramatic moments, that’s what happens when you live your life in show business," she says. A lot of women go through the same thing, "but because they don’t live in show business, not everything they do is in the newspaper. For us, it always seems to be more dramatic. But it’s not."

But tickets went on sale more than a year ago. Any plan for a well-buffered maternity leave after the singer’s 2008 world tour went out the window during the drawn-out pregnancy attempts.

So now, Dion is back to work after three months. Nonetheless, she insists the timing is fine. "Really, it’s the best situation we can have," she says.

"Everybody’s got a very specific job, and they make my situation, my life, the kids’ life, my performance, my mommy moment, the best possible. It’s all of us, making the best show possible.

The family’s house at Lake Las Vegas is understandably getting an add-on. But she says it’s better to stay in the hotel during the more time-intensive rehearsal process anyway.

Ten-year-old "R.C." (Rene Charles) keeps up on schoolwork with Skype and gets around town for bowling and baseball. "He doesn’t feel like he’s in a hotel room and he’s going to live two months here and he’s miserable."


When Dion opened the Colosseum in March 2003, AEG Live — the venue’s operator and show’s producer — hedged its bet by hiring "O" and "Mystere" director Franco Dragone for an operatic, dance-intensive opus.

Many fans found it overproduced; they just wanted to hear their songbird do the hits. The production adjusted in time to become less baroque and more Celine-centric.

But the most compelling part was usually the five minutes or more when everything halted for the star to talk about whatever was on her mind that day.

"She’s got this amazing ability to make every person feel as though she’s working to them. I think that’s really rare for an artist," says the new director, Ken Ehrlich. His background is heavy on TV production and includes the Grammy Awards broadcast each year.

In TV parlance, Dion is "able to cross the tube into people’s homes. That’s something she’s always been able to do," Ehrlich says. "If you take that as a given — as what’s at the root of it — and then add what I would say is a substantial amount of production, but not Cirque-like production, that’s probably the difference between (‘A New Day’) and this show."

The production budget this time goes to a 31-piece orchestra, although the new set does not always keep the players rooted to a stationary bandstand.

"It is going to be more personal," Ehrlich says of the revue originally announced with a Hollywood theme, but that’s now a bit more relaxed on the set list.

"This show is definitely more vocal, more about music," Dion agrees. However, she remains a fan of "A New Day." Asked if the new show is a response to fans’ wanting less of all that other stuff, she answers: "I think the show lasted five years because of all that other stuff."


Only a star as open and irony-free as Celine Dion would not sound coy in saying, "I didn’t think after five years that they wanted me again."

Now really. "A New Day" sold more than $400 million worth of tickets. Though Caesars Entertainment takes no revenue from the show itself, there was $175,000 in extra spending on the property each night the singer performed.

Consider, too, neither Cher nor Bette Midler extended their contracts. Other rumored Colosseum tenants, such as Neil Diamond, have yet to emerge. If the Colosseum was "the house that Celine built," it now seems like the one that’s been waiting for her to come back.

"I’m not kidding," she insists. "It was a great thing to feel like I was wanted again." Specifically, she explains, the five years of touring and babies went by so fast it felt a little soon to return, especially with no new album to promote.

Producers will have to settle for fewer shows: the 75 or so per year that became more the norm for Cher and the like after Dion did more than twice that many. But Ehrlich says one thing they won’t have to worry about is the singer’s reinventing herself.

Without using the Gaga word, Ehrlich notes, "We’re living in a world of contemporary pop artists who feel like they have to update themselves six months after they’ve come into the business.

"I don’t think that’s the case with her. She and Rene really know who she is. I think the attitude has always been, ‘We’ll do what we do, and the audience will find us.’ ”

"I am the same artist as when I started," Dion agrees. Even though "the industry has changed tremendously … I feel like I’m at the peak of my career. That’s pretty strange to say when everybody’s struggling."

Her adult-contemporary catalog stands outside of pop trends. "It doesn’t seem that those songs are getting old," she says of hits such as "My Heart Will Go On" and "The Power of Love."

"We’re not getting any younger, but it still works." And, she adds, "I still love what I do. If fans want to see that again, I am more than pleased. And I’m not going to try to become somebody else, but I will try to keep it as fresh as possible.

"They will let me know when they have enough of it."

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

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