Wayne Newton is serious about the title of his new show. In the small, intimate venue, you may get a handshake from the 75-year-old Vegas legend himself.
Mr. Entertainment embraces his role as Grand Daddy of the Strip
Wayne Newton is serious about the title of his new show. In the small, intimate venue, you may get a handshake from the 75-year-old Vegas legend himself. If you’re a lady, it might even be a kiss on the cheek. Welcome to “Wayne Newton: Up Close and Personal.” He is sincerely glad to see you.
Newton’s residency at Bally’s, coming off a five-year hiatus, is a 90-minute show more about talking than singing; more about the man than the music. Famously energetic, ingratiating, and generous in a career spanning five decades on Las Vegas stages, Newton brings that same generosity to charming anecdotes of celebrity encounters, the “good old days” on the Strip, and a Q&A session that offers a candid window into what it’s really like to be “Mr. Las Vegas”.
Stalwarts who insist that Vegas hasn’t been “Vegas” since they imploded the Sands may rejoice at the synthesizer horns and barrelhouse piano of “Viva Las Vegas” that pipe the Midnight Idol onto the stage. These sounds evoke the nostalgia of better times, before Britney and Cirque du Soleil took over. Newton stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Frank, Dean, Sammy, and other icons of the glory days.
There’s no getting around it, though – Wayne is no longer twenty-five. Clapping his hands, pumping his fist, swinging the microphone and smiling broadly as ever, Newton has more energy than most of us will have left by retirement age. The man used to do six shows a day, six days a week; he’s a pro. But those days are over. Wayne steps a little more gingerly now, because nothing ruins a show like a broken hip. His voice, once clear as a bell, is smoky and raspy from decades of hard use.
Expect it, accept it, and for God’s sake don’t pooh-pooh him for it. That is history standing on the stage in front of you, a living legend. For people who have seen Wayne again and again across the decades, it’s like cozying up in the living room of a cherished father figure – effortless authority, cheesy jokes.
If waning vocal prowess accounts for the talky nature of this show, Newton makes up for it in spades. He is ceaselessly charming, never taking himself too seriously. He yucks it up about viagra, scuffles with record execs, befriending Elvis, and getting mistaken for Gene Simmons. He tells stories from his upbringing as a sickly, asthmatic child in Roanoke, VA – “The doctors told my parents ‘If you want this kid to live, get him out of this climate!’ Well, they took about seven months to think about it …” The Q&A with the audience (questions pre-screened before the show) takes you deeper down the rabbit hole of the incredible life this man has lived, the elbows he rubbed. No two shows will be alike.
Classic album covers and old concert footage flash on the projector screen as Newton not only sings but plays guitar, banjo, and trumpet. He only gets through a chorus and a verse of “Danke Schoen,” his most enduring hit, but as the band plays the song out Newton spreads his arms wide, in a “Ta-daaaa!” gesture. The look on his face mixes youthful mischief with a very adult gratitude that borders on bafflement. His face seems to say to his devoted fans “Can you believe, after all these years, we still get to be here in Vegas, sharing moments like these?”
Verdict: Don’t come to “Wayne Newton: Up Close and Personal” at Ballys Hotel Las Vegas, Windows Showroom, expecting cartwheels and fire breathing. This is a show for connoisseurs and acolytes of the “Old Vegas” who appreciate Mr. Entertainment for what he was, and can marvel at the national treasure he still is.