October 29, 2009 - 10:54 am
Can’t he just lip-sync already?
That’s a joke. Mostly. In a new generational divide, such fakery now appears to be perfectly legit on the pop diva concert circuit. But old-school guys such as Wayne Newton — and most of us on his side of the line — still consider that an outrage.
But so is Newton’s singing voice, which is still the elephant in the room for Mr. Las Vegas and his otherwise admirable new showcase at the Tropicana. Because of the Neon section’s preprinted production schedule, a full review won’t run until next week, on Nov. 6.
But the idea of Newton breaking out of his long-established formula has raised curiosity, so here’s a quick take on Wednesday’s official opening night, which included a guest cameo from Newton’s “Dancing With the Stars” partner Cheryl Burke.
The show isn’t a complete departure, but video clips and a new structure give it an autobiographical framework that will thrill his longtime fans. And anyone with a fondness for ’60s and ’70s-era show business will get a kick out of Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin on the overhead screens. You wish both of those guys, not to mention Robert Goulet, had stayed in good health long enough for someone to assemble a similar retrospective for them.
This would be a really good show … if he could still sing.
The format plays to Newton’s strengths as a charmer and showbiz survivor, but the underlying goal of the anecdotes and chatter is to reduce his singing time. It helps, but by the end of 100 minutes a lot of people were still squirming at the tortured vocals.
There’s a point where Newton talks about learning other musical instruments because “you physically cannot sing five hours a night, six nights a week.”
What if he moved that point to an earlier part of the show, then busted himself? A simple confession to the crowd: “You know, those years took their toll and my voice isn’t what it used to be. But I’m going to work hard for you anyway and do my best for you. Will you let me do that?”
If he said that, I wonder if the elephant in the room just might go away.