|Las Vegas Review-Journal||"Barry Manilow sets opening dates for Las Vegas residency" by John Katsilometes|
So much has changed since Barry Manilow opened his residency 13 years ago at what is now the Westgate Las Vegas. The hotel was called Las Vegas Hilton then, the main performance venue was known as the Hilton Theater and Manilow was stepping in to supplant “Star Trek: The Experience” as the hotel’s main entertainment attraction. The old Trek-themed Quarks restaurant is now a gift shop, certain to be stocked heavily with Manilow merch.
What hasn’t changed is Manilow himself. The hits are forever familiar, and he’s still cruising at Warp 7. “Can you believe, this? I’m as old as the (expletive) hills and I’m starting another residency in Las Vegas,” Manilow said, whose grand opening for “Barry Manilow Las Vegas: The Hits Come Home” coincides with his 75th birthday. “Shouldn’t I be on a cruise or something?”
Manilow’s fans, the indefatigable “Fanilows,” would certainly find him on that boat. Adhering to his strong box-office appeal on tour, Manilow is taking on an ambitious performance schedule in his return to VegasVille. He opens for previews May 24-26, with his grand opening weekend June 14-16 (his birthday is June 17). Other announced show dates are June 21-23, July 19-21, July 26-28, Sept. 27-29, Oct. 4-6 and Oct. 11-13. Tickets range from $19.75 to a $329.75 VIP package (fees not included). Tickets go on sale at 8 a.m. Wednesday, with Manilow’s fan club members and Westgate Resorts residency owners already offered pre-sales beginning today.
Manilow anticipates performing at least two, and up to four, weekends per month through Oct. 13 as more dates are announced. Expect an extension if he does the business the hotel expects. As Westgate Resorts founder and CEO David Siegel said, “Barry Manilow is an icon and one of the world’s greatest performers. We are thrilled to be welcoming him back to our historic stage so that he can once again make it home.”
What hasn’t been formally addressed is how the Manilow ripple effect at International Theater effects “Soundtrack,” starring Clint Holmes and Earl Turner, the theater’s 7 p.m. show running on select Thursdays through Saturdays. The current ticket schedule has “Soundtrack” performing alternate nights, when Manilow’s show is off, through the fall. There is no overlap between the two shows, and expect a stage show every weekend — including such headliners as Alan Parsons Project, Yes featuring Jon Anderson, and John Prine — throughout this year at Westgate. The hotel is booking partners with industry vet Danny Zelisko at International Theater.
Manilow knows the property - especially the International stage - very well. He spent five years, 2005-, at the Las Vegas Hilton and another two at Paris Las Vegas. “I have nothing but great memories of Las Vegas. People told me it would be difficult, but the audiences every night were just fantastic,” Manilow said. “The band, my crew, had a great time. We’re all so looking forward to it.”
Manilow has forecast his zeal for Las Vegas for several months, He and his team have been spotted on the property since last winter. On Dec. 8, Manilow was quoted as saying the contract with the hotel was essentially a done deal, only the “the dotting of i’s and crossing of t’s” to be finished off. But the subsequent lag between that comment and today’s formal announcement sparked questions about the residency possibly unraveling.
Manilow simply applied patience in the process, though when asked if he was concerned the deal might never be signed, he said, “Yeah, we all were. It kept going back and forth, and I think the Westgate was just working for a long time until everyone was happy. We were ready - me and my band were ready to go. We’re ready to go now.”
Manilow is backed by a nine-piece band that he promises “will sound like 900,” and a show loaded with a healthy sampling from his 27 top-10 hits. The show will blend lavish Vegas production value with classic showmanship. “When I’ve been on the road, I’ve tried bringing 25 trucks and that kind of show, a big-big production, full symphony orchestra with band risers splitting the musicians and stairs in the middle,” Manilow said. “But when it come to me, the fans want to hear the songs they love.’ We will give them more than just a guy standing in front of the band - Sinatra and those guys used to do that, but I also like stuff. There will be three or four big moments in the show and that’s what I’m working on, right now... I’ll be able to change the show every night in some areas, and keep those big Vegas moments too.”
In his previous Vegas productions, Manilow rolled out a fully costumed and choreographed number to “Copacabana,” and similar focus on that number can be expected. “I’m still thinking, thinking and not sure what we’ll do,” Manilow says. “We’re just beginning to put it together. It’s too early to commit to anything specifically.”
Manilow is just eager to be back onstage. He’s continued to book performances internationally, including shows June 4-5 in Mexico City and a five-concert tour of the United Kingdom in September, capped by three appearances at O2 Arena in London. “I’m telling you, I feel 35. I don’t feel any different than I’ve ever felt,” he said. “I have no pot belly. I have as much passion and energy as ever. All the stuff I’ve heard in my life - age is a number, age only matters if you’re a banana (laughs) - that’s true.”
The return to the Vegas stage will only continue to fuel his passion for music. “Being active is the answer to being young,” Manilow said. “If I stopped and just sat around and watch television, I would get old and maybe get sick. But for me, it’s always the next album, production, the next whatever. Every morning I can’t wait to do things with music. If you stop moving, you’re going to stop. And I never stop.”