On opening night of “Celine” at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace on Aug. 27, the theater went dark, the audience fell silent and three wide screens lit up the theater with images of fans from around the world singing Dion’s “I Drove All Night.” The montage of fan-submitted videos featured a combination of faces, landmarks and hand written signs of love and adoration.
The screens went up as Celine Dion stepped into the spotlight wearing a glittering gold dress. As she sang “I Surrender,” the curtain “crashed” to the ground revealing a 31-piece orchestra, her band, back-up singers and a 180 degree screen.
In other words, it was a fittingly dramatic opening as one of the biggest music stars on the planet finally made her triumphant Las Vegas comeback.
Emotions ran high in Dion's return to the stage. Following a year-long hiatus during which she supported her husband Rene Angelil in his battle against throat cancer, Dion told the audience that she missed their applause but never their love, since she knew it always remained. Later in the show, Dion struck a more serious note as she sat down and spoke of her love for husband and children. A montage of videos featuring the singer and her family enveloped the dark theater as she sang a cover of Roberta Flack’s “The First Time I Saw Your Face.”
Unsurprisingly, themes of nostalgia were pronounced. Dion sang a duet with a video projection of her younger self on "Where Does My Heart Beat Now” and continuing with that theme, she wowed the audience with powerful renditions of “Because You Loved Me,” “It’s All Coming Back to Me” and “Power of Love.”
Still, the show was not without many moments of levity. At one point, three hot pink lights came up with Dion standing on a riser in a hot pink dress. On the screen was a hologram of the Bees Gees singing their 1997 duet “Immortality.” their duet from 1997. The song was halfway over before the audience realized that the Dion on stage was also a hologram, and when the “real” Celine walked out, she earned a standing ovation. The virtual duets continued as Frank Sinatra appeared next to her on “All The Way” and Elvis joined her for a rendition of “If I Can Dream.”
Still, a performer of Dion's caliber doesn't need technological gimmickry to make an impression. During her powerful renditions of “Love Can Move Mountains” and “River Deep Mountain High” -- which were set to flashing scenery and exploding lights -- one could see that Dion’s incredible stage presence matches her booming vocals. As Dion sang covers of “All By Myself” and Prince’s “Kiss” and “Purple Rain,” she made them her own and the audience stood up, shouted and clapped in approval.
The encore captured the bittersweet essence at the heart of so much of Dion's music. “My Heart Will Go On” featured a touching dedication to the song's composer James Horner, who passed away earlier this year and she ended the show with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow," before earnestly thanking the audience for welcoming her back.
This new show, directed by Grammy Awards producer Ken Ehrlich, showcases Dion in a new light, incorporating her past with the present while embracing the future. With numerous costume changes, Celine looks gorgeous, but the show also has familial energy, with her backup group interacting with her and getting their own time in the spotlight. Somehow, "Celine" is bigger than life while remaining intimate, a feat as remarkable as Dion's voice.
"Celine" is scheduled for 39 more performances between Aug. 28 and Jan. 17, 2016. Tickets are $55 to $250 and are available in person at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace Box Office, by calling 866-320-9763, or right here on AXS.com. All shows are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Take a behind-the-scenes look at Celine's return to Caesars in the video embedded above.