Las Vegas REVIEW - Journal
Elton John agrees to deal with Caesars
Elton John agrees to deal with Caesars
Singer to perform at least 75 shows over three years


Pop art, multiple costume changes and a red piano are in Elton John's future at Caesars Palace. But forget the ostrich feathers and other excesses of his self-described "wild and wacky days."

The British pop legend confirmed on Tuesday that he will perform at least 75 shows in the casino's 4,000-seat Colosseum during the next three years in an exclusive production known as "The Red Piano" for the red-lacquer grand he will play.

He will be backed by his usual band in a production overseen by director-photographer David LaChapelle.

While the top ticket of $250 tops that of resident diva Celine Dion's $225, the show won't have dancers or acrobats like she does.

"It is going to be, obviously, totally a different show (from) Celine's. It's going to be an Elton show," the 56-year-old singer told reporters from the Colosseum stage during a Tuesday news conference. "It will be totally different from anything Vegas has seen."

"There are a few sequins," he volunteered. "If you're going to have one last stab at it you might as well have a stab at it in Las Vegas."

Tickets go on sale today for the first engagement Feb. 13-22; other tickets are $100 and $175. He is expected to perform about five weeks each year, five shows per stint.

John's concerts are in addition to Dion's 200 shows per year and won't affect her schedule.

John said he wants to offer "a Vegas experience" that would draw fans from around the world the way Dion's "A New Day ..." does.

"I want it to be special. I want people to go, `Elton has made an effort here.' Not just take the money and run," he said.

The money could be substantial. If the 75 concerts sell out, they have a potential gross of $61 million, Caesars President Mark Juliano told reporters.

While Juliano declined further salary figures, sources close to the deal say most of the ticket revenue will go to the performer, and the hotel will benefit mainly from incremental on-site spending that adds up to about $150,000 for each Dion performance.

John's deal prohibits him from performing at any other casino or casino-hosted event in North America, and any other venue in Clark County. His continued participation in Andre Agassi's annual Grand Slam for Children benefit is in question.

LaChapelle is the fashion photographer who directed the biographical video for "This Train Don't Stop Here Anymore," which featured pop star Justin Timberlake playing the young Elton John.

The singer's collection of pop art will provide the visual cue for the look of the new show, but "it's not just going to be over the top and crazy," LaChapelle said.

John added that the show will be fun and "packed with music," but also "full of poignancy, hopefully." He plans to include songs such as the John Lennon tribute "Empty Garden," which he normally doesn't perform because it's "very upsetting."


John reinterprets classic songs in artistic show at Caesars Palace


Elton John's "The Red Piano" at Caesars Palace succeeds as art in its own right while celebrating a great career. A game of semantics clears the way for Elton John's pop-art spectacle to be the most exciting show of 2004.

Cirque du Soleil's "Ka" has been open to ticket-buyers since Thanksgiving weekend. But it declared itself to be in "previews" until Feb. 3, and thus not officially a finished product until 2005.

No matter how they split hairs, it will soon be clear that "Ka" is the most significant thing to happen on the Strip this year. Or in a long time.

But John is hardly a consolation prize. Celine Dion created the new model of resident headliner that Barry Manilow will glom onto next year. But John is the one who really seems to enjoy his stretches in the Colosseum.

"The Red Piano" better fulfilled expectations than the year's other big entry, the Queen catalog musical "We Will Rock You."

The theatrical musical is well sung and handsomely staged, but doesn't live up to the talent involved and people don't seem to be talking it up. If only it had been "Spamalot," the new Monty Python musical, instead.

All three shows do set the bar higher on the Strip, where there are now at least a dozen A-list productions; those that fell from last year's list don't indicate a drop in quality as much as an attempt to vary the list.

Next year brings "Avenue Q" and Franco Dragone's "Le Reve" at Wynn Las Vegas. But, as they say in "Avenue Q," these will do "for now":

1 Elton John, Caesars Palace -- True, the legend takes a subordinate role to a mesmerizing video show by David LaChapelle. And for tickets topping out at $281, he could sing a few more songs. But the larger truth is as big as the giant screen: a showcase that manages to reinterpret classic songs and succeed as art in its own right while celebrating a career that's still moving forward.

2 "O," Bellagio -- Usurped by its new "Ka," Cirque du Soleil's water show ends a six-year run as the cutting edge of technology on the Strip. But with "Ka" more in the realm of grand opera, this one stands as the apex of the dreamlike surrealism that made us love Cirque to begin with.

3 "Mamma Mia!" at Mandalay Bay -- It took "We Will Rock You" to make us appreciate how the creators of "Mamma Mia!" made the idea of the back catalog musical only look easy.

4 "Mystere," Treasure Island -- Eleven years old this weekend, "Mystere" still offers a deft blend of gripping acrobatics and playful European-style clowning.

5 Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Stardust -- You anticipated the nostalgia and the "last of their old-Vegas kind" part. What you maybe didn't expect was that they still sound so good.

6 Clint Holmes, Harrah's Las Vegas -- Amid shows crammed with automation, the "down front" school of entertainment survives through a showman who keeps the classic Vegas spirit alive without invoking nostalgia.

7 The Second City, Flamingo -- Reintroduce yourself to sketch comedy, a format diluted on TV by the forced efforts of fully costumed late shows. This quintet puts the vitality back as it combines theater with the immediacy of stand-up comedy.

8 "The Fashionistas," Krave nightclub -- Thanks to the deep pockets of creator John Stagliano, this mondo-bizarro adult dance revue is a distinctly personal vision and the rare chance to see what can be created outside of corporate commercial concerns.

9 Mac King, Harrah's Las Vegas -- The comic magician moved into a larger Harrah's venue this summer, but remains a value-priced alternative to triple-digit tickets while still offering a one-of-a-kind stage persona.

10 Celine Dion, Caesars Palace -- The Canadian superstar feels more at home on her colossal stage now than last year, and more in charge of it. Maybe next year we'll see still more personality emerge from a showcase that lives up to the hype, but is stuffed to the point of distraction.