For Caesars, waiting is the smartest part

Olivia Newton-John was just a pen stroke away from signing a deal to perform at the Flamingo when her sister was diagnosed with brain cancer last year.

The deal went on hold, and the Australian star’s older sister Rona faded quickly within six weeks, slipping away last May. Newton-John, 65, took the rest of last year off.

“She just didn’t have it in her to go perform. She needed that time to heal,” says her publicist, Michael Caprio.

But Caesars Entertainment Corp. remained patient. On Tuesday, the company announced what both sides hope will be an open-ended Las Vegas run at the Flamingo, debuting April 8.

The singing star most famous for the movie version of “Grease” will share the early slot in the Flamingo showroom with fellow ’70s superstars Donny and Marie Osmond, performing select weeks during breaks of their long-running show.

Newton-John’s first engagement will be April 8-12, returning May 6-10 and 27-31, and again in July and August. Tickets for all the dates are $69 to $139 and go on sale Friday.

The Flamingo showcase will be a career retrospective adapted from the singer’s touring show, shorter but enhanced with more production value.

If it turns out to be a Las Vegas exclusive, it will be by choice, not by contract. Newton-John has a few other dates booked, but will more or less make Las Vegas her home base.

“I do know the plan is to be here on a more permanent basis, let’s put it that way,” Caprio says.

Our favorite “Grease” girl would perform a few engagements before deciding whether to stay in the hotel or buy a house in town.

“When her sister was alive they used to come here for the shopping and the spas,” Caprio adds. …

This seems to be a fertile time for people who meet doing one show to go off and work together on something else, sometimes creating exciting new ideas. And these people all know each other, which allows me to link most of this week’s column items together like a good Craig Ferguson monologue.

So here we go, getting the bad news out of the way first.

The Phat Pack, a trio of singers who met during the long tenure of the Vegas “Phantom” musical, lasted only nine performances in the Windows Showroom at Bally’s before issues over getting paid came to a boil.

It turns out the room leased from Caesars Entertainment involved two entities. Andrew Van Slee’s Extraordinary Media Inc. is the one that did the deal with the Phat Pack, and is no longer part of the operation.

Ken Walker, whose main business is running Creative Light Source in North Las Vegas, is now the sole lease-holder on the room and the sole producer of “Tony ’n Tina’s Wedding.” He says he would like to have the Phat Pack reopen in April, after one member, Randal Keith, finishes an out-of-state contract in “Young Frankenstein.”

The Phat Pack’s Bruce Ewing says Walker wasn’t able to offer the group a guarantee.

“His main concern right now is keeping ‘Tony ’n Tina’s’ going,” Ewing says. “And I need to either be produced (with a financial guarantee) or close the show and do it on the road for a while.”

After doing the show at their own expense at the Plaza, “we can’t do that anymore,” Ewing adds. …

So, Randal Keith is off to “Young Frankenstein,” but not without one more turn in “Les Miserables.”

Keith toured with “Les Miz” for years in the starring role of Jean Valjean. Doing it one more weekend, in a concert version that benefits Golden Rainbow and UNLV’s Performing Arts Center and School of the Arts, won’t be as much of a novelty to him as it will be to Tim Molyneux, who sings the role of Valjean this Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., before turning it over to Keith the next weekend. Tickets are $25.

Molyneux makes a high school dream come true by playing Valjean. But he is better known on the Strip as the producer of “Bite,” which had a good run at the Stratosphere. Until the stake is pulled from the dormant vampire revue, he returns to his first love.

“I never set out to be a producer, it just fell into my lap,” he says.

But he did set out to be a singer from age 5, and started learning opera at 13. Molyneux is also training his tenor on an album of standards and Motown classics with local producer Pat Thrall.

The performances at Artemus Ham Hall will be without costumes but with “implied theatrics.” Bill Fayne conducts a 25-piece orchestra and the Las Vegas Master Singers, and says his arms were tired after the first rehearsal of two hours and 40 minutes of music.

“It’s certainly the most ambitious thing I’ve ever tried to do here,” Fayne says. …

So a few weeks ago I wrote about Fayne helming a work called “A Love Story,” with Anne Martinez as one of the singers in the romantic triangle he concocted.

Now Martinez is co-creating a work of her own called “Alice,” which she calls “a romantic steampunk” take on “Alice in Wonderland” and a vehicle for BBR, her singing duo with Savannah Smith.

The two stage the work with four dancers and a nine-piece band at 11 p.m. Tuesday in the lounge of The Tuscany, 255 E. Flamingo Road.

Martinez says she believes the show has commercial potential for Las Vegas, and developed it thinking, “If I went to see a show, what is something I can’t find right now that would blow me away?”

Martinez knew bandleader David Perrico and choreographer and co-director Ryan Kelsey from her tenure in “Pin Up.” She was a singer in that show before joining the short-lived “Dancing Queen,” a generic revue that’s perhaps the perfect example of why we need to try things such as “Alice.”

And, just to prove I can tie it all together Ferguson-style (but without the wit), trumpeter Perrico on Tuesday recorded his band’s standing gig at the Stratosphere. He says two record labels are interested in his original compositions for the big band.

So far, the recording won’t be available to you or me. “Right now we just want to capture some stuff because the band hasn’t been recorded yet,” he says. But you never know.

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

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