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Celine Dion: A New Day
(© George Bodnar)
There are performers whose mere presence can fill an entire room. There are performers who can easily command any stage, be it an intimate club or a giant coliseum. Celine Dion is not one of these performers.

Make no mistake: I do not question Dion's ability as a recording artist. But as a live performer in A New Day, which recently opened at the Caesar's Palace Colosseum on the Las Vegas strip, she is inconsequential at best.

The show is the brainchild of Dion and Cirque du Soleil's consummate director Franco Dragone, known for his brilliant use of dance and acrobatics blended with haunting music. However, this collaboration never seems to fully gel in A New Day. While the stage is filled with amazing performers leaping and dancing across its vast area, Dion remains rooted firmly downstage center, practically in the audience. While she sings her greatest hits ("Because You Loved Me," "I Drove All Night," "My Heart Will Go On," etc.), the dancing continues behind her. The result is that she seems more like a live soundtrack than the show's star.

During the pre-show, a live shot of the audience is projected onto the pride of the production: a 34 x 110-foot LED screen upon which the dignified patrons are seen waving their arms frantically in an effort to discover where they are on the massive unit. The camera then zeros in on small groups of patrons who entertain themselves and others by making fools of themselves or by looking very uncomfortable for not doing so. Finally, the show itself begins with the lady herself appearing dead center from out of the darkness. Dion makes some passes at running around the and onto the elaborate, mechanical set pieces (designed by Michel Crête) but, for the most part, she remains right at the edge of the stage while the other performers do their thing.

The most uncomfortable moments come when the music stops, the dancers disappear, and it's just Dion and her audience. This is when the show's split personality truly emerges: Dragone's alternate world is gone and now we have a Celine Dion concert, during which the star attempts witty banter as her fans scream out the mandatory declarations "We love you, Celine!" and then hold their breath, waiting for her to stop talking and start singing again. When the show finally does return to the spectacle promised by extraordinary ticket prices, the mesmerized audience reacts with applause and cheers.

To say that the show is wholly unenjoyable would be a lie; the sheer technology and engineering involved is amazing. This is a Las Vegas spectacle in every sense of the word. The lights create the illusion that we're in a painting that's constantly changing and the set complies with an array of pieces brought on and off, some of them floating through the air. The back-up performers and musicians are top-notch and enthusiastic. However, the overall mood of A New Day is too dark and enigmatic for Dion's light love ballads. Would I pay more than $100 per ticket for this? Not until it's a cold day in...

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