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Celine Dion Goes Big In Sin City
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To cut it in the cutthroat world of to-day's Las Vegas strip, syrupy Canadian chanteuse Celine Dion needs all the help she can get.2
For her show, A New Day, due to start a three-year run on Tuesday, Dion has called in some heavy artillery3. That includes Franco Dragone, the mastermind
behind Cirque du Soleil4, and 54 dancers who swirl around her in a series of very loosely strung-together production numbers.
It also includes an impressive spread of technological wizardry5. Among the contraptions at her new Colosseum theater at Caesars Palace, where the shows will
take place, is a colossal LED screen that can display backdrops ranging from the moon to New York's Times Square, a vast ethernet network controlling
thousands of lights on stage, and a giant humidifier designed to protect Dion's voice from the dry desert air.6
"Technology helps in creating magic in a show, and it's important to create magic," said Claude-Andre Roy, principal theater designer at Sc6no Plus, which
designed the new Colosseum for Dion and company.
Vegas shows have been waging a technological arms race since 1989, when the opening of the first epic family-friendly " megaresort," the Mirage, ushered in a
new era in Sin City with its lavish spectacle.7
In 2000, after seeing the very high-tech Cirque du Soleil water show O at the Bellagio, just south of Caesars on the strip, La Celine decided to roll the
dice by staging her own show.8 She snagged O director Franco Dragone, who in turn brought aboard longtime theater-design collaborator Sc6no Plus, which had
solved a raft of knotty problems for O, such as how to manage a huge a-mount of electrical equipment in proximity to water.9
Caesars in turn ponied up $95 million to create the Colosseum, whose exteri-or resembles that of its ancient Roman forebear.10 The high-tech centerpiece of
the new Colosseum is the $6 million curved Mitsubishi LED screen",
which the show's representatives claim is the largest indoor screen of its kin in North America. Catwalks12 at 8-foot intervals allow performers to wal
through doors in the screen, which measures 40 feet by 120 feet and spans th width of the stage.
"When (Dion) in one scene comes out of the LED screen through a door am the screen actually opens, no one can see that there's a door," Roy said. "That's why
the result is so good, because you've never seen anything lik( that before and it's totally seamless. It's like it's not real. It's magic. "
There's also ethernet network linking a vast array of lights, and controling ￡ Rube Goldbergian system of ropes, pulleys and lifts moving around the
performers and set elements, including trees that bloom on the stage.
The theater is designed with an orchestra section and two balconies so that no member of the audience is more than 120 feet from the stageâ€”a neat trick for
such a large venue13. And, thanks to 139 surround-sound speakers with 180 kilowatts of power, even folks in the back row shouldn't have a hard time hearing
Dion belt out My Heart Will Co On, her hit from the movie Titanic.
Finally there's the weatherâ€”on stage. To protect Dion's voice from scratchy" "desert throat," a system maintains an atmospheric bubble that keeps humidity
at a constant 55 percent. Vents15 at Dion's feet bathe her in humid air.
Still, observers are skeptical about the gamble that Dion, her Svengali16-like husband-manager Rene Angelil, Dragone and Caesars Palace are taking to revive
the enterprise. They reportedly reached an agreement in which Caesars gets none of the ticket revenue17 from A New Day. Instead, Caesars, a longtime Las
Vegas fixture looking to boost its faded image after being eclipsed18 by newer megaresorts, is hoping for a lift in gaming revenues from people-coming to see
Some, like New York-based gaming analyst Joe Greff of the Fulcrum Group in New York, wonder if the bet will pay off, especially at a time when the war in
Iraq could put a damper on19 travel to Vegas.
"A lot of people would like to see Celine Dion," Greff said. "But if people are worried about their jobs, that doesn't bode20 well for Vegas or any other
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