Union bashes Newton on Web

Hey, isn’t it our job to pick on Wayne Newton’s singing?

But everyone’s a critic, and the Las Vegas Musicians Union is letting people judge sound snippets of Newton live in concert on a new Web site, Wayne NewtonSadFacts.info.

The Web site takes a high-tech approach to “leafletting” in the union’s three-year-old dispute with Newton over rehearsal pay, even as the site avoids specifics of the dispute. The Las Vegas union, Local 369, placed Newton on an “unfair” list with its parent union, the American Federation of Musicians. The singer has been performing at the Tropicana with nonunion musicians.

Frank Leone, president of the local, says the Web is more effective than trying to distribute pamphlets on the sidewalks around the Tropicana. Technology also gives prospective ticket buyers a chance to decide for themselves whether Mr. Las Vegas can still cut it.

Newton’s wife, Kathleen, an attorney who handles his business affairs, delved much deeper into the specifics of the contract dispute than the Web site does. “They have such egg on their face,” she says. “They can’t print facts because the facts would be against them.”

There isn’t space to recap the contract issue in depth, but her major point is that the union mischaracterizes the dispute. “He has always paid for rehearsals,” she says.

Kathleen Newton says the union would have a contract if it hadn’t tried to rush one and threatened to strike in 2006. The singer had left the Stardust, and neither side knew at the time if he would land another long-term residency.

The two sides almost reached a compromise on the rehearsal issue — that post-show fixes of specific mistakes would be included in the regular six-hour show day — when the union threatened to strike without letting band members first vote, she says.

Once the line was drawn in the sand and nonunion players were hired, it became an issue of loyalty to stand by musicians who resigned from the union or voted to decertify it as their representatives, she says.

“They know they screwed up,” she says. “Now they’re trying to do little low blows” with the Web site.

Calling attention to Newton’s vocal deficiencies does seem to admit a contract resolution isn’t likely. After all, if Newton called and said he wanted to reconcile, wouldn’t the union then want to see the show do well with a 20-piece orchestra?

“We believe he’s going to be intractable,” says Leone. …

Cirque du Soleil’s “Viva Elvis” is scheduled for ticketed previews at Aria Dec. 18 through Jan. 28, all discounted 25 percent.

The base prices, before tax and service fees, are $99, $125, $150 and $175. The top price is more than “Love” or “Criss Angel: ‘Believe’,” breaking a Cirque tradition of not pricing its newest title higher.

“Canceled” would be too strong a word, since invitations never went out. But Wednesday had been a target date for a “Viva Elvis” media preview. There is speculation the postponement may have been because Cirque’s big kahuna, Guy Laliberte, didn’t like what he saw on a recent visit.

The press conference is now Dec. 15, tied to the first day of ticket sales.

It should be said that “lion’s den” visits are a normal part of Cirque’s creative process. And if Laliberte did kick some tail while he was in town, that’s not unprecedented either. There were big changes made to “Zumanity” prior to its 2003 opening, to name one.

Laliberte also has his attention divided by another new Cirque title opening in Chicago today for a pre-Broadway run. “Banana Shpeel” is another attempt to diversify beyond the company’s circus roots, this one billed as “A New Twist on Vaudeville.” …

“Rock Star the Tribute” was set to open Wednesday in the Riviera’s former “La Cage” venue, most recently used by Charo and Andrew Dice Clay. It previously had brief runs in Steve Wyrick’s theater and the Harmon Theater.

The “Legends”-style format puts rotating impersonators of Joan Jett, Ozzy Osbourne and the like in front of a house band that includes Tony Montana, who was part of “Monster Circus” at the Las Vegas Hilton earlier this year.

That one didn’t stick, but the Hilton liked guest star Dee Snider enough to host Twisted Sister’s “Twisted Christmas” Dec. 15-17.

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

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