Author: Gil Kaufman
Date: February 13,2008

It’s one of the most daunting gigs out there: moving into a
Las Vegas theater that was custom-built for Celine Dion. Cher will
attempt to step into those shoes as the glamorous pop star who has
been touring the planet for more than 35 years in costumes that
could easily have come off the back of a Vegas showgirl. She teamed
with AEG Live and Caesars Palace last week to set down roots in the
desert that has been like a second home to her over the years. The
diva’s run at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace —
originally built for Celine Dion, who ended her run there last year
— begins on May 6 and covers approximately 200 shows over a
three-year period. The show, “Cher at the Colosseum”
was designed exclusively for the 4,300-seat venue and will feature
the singer performing her hits to choreography by Doriana Sanchez,
state-of-the-art lighting and special effects, along with her
signature flashy costumes from designer Bob Mackie. More than a
year before Celine Dion’s run at the Colosseum ended, John
Meglen, co-CEO and president of AEG Live/Concerts West, said he
came up with a very short list of artists who could fill the room
and Cher’s name was at the top. So, he invited the
singer’s manager, Roger Davies, to come see the Dion show and
get a taste of the venue. “Roger told me, ‘I’ll
come in and watch a bit, but I won’t stay for the whole
show,’ and he ended up staying for the whole show and then we
sat down to dinner for three hours after that,” said Meglen.
What won Davies over, Meglen said, was that the Colosseum, unlike
other venues in town, is prominently featured in the Caesars Palace
Hotel, in addition to being a state-of-the-art room.
“She’s played here on her tours and at the arena at MGM
but this was an opportunity to come in and create a show like she
never has before,” he said. “We encourage the artist to
go over the top, because they don’t have to pack it up and
move it every night.” Meglen would not discuss the financial
details of the deal, except to say that Cher is making “a lot
of money” and he’s confident she can sell tickets and
that if she makes a lot of money, AEG Live will also make
“some money.” He also shied away from discussing the
specific “special treats” Cher is cooking up for the
show, but he promised it would make excellent use of the large (110
feet wide by 100 feet deep) stage and 34-foot high hi-definition
LED screen by Mitsubishi. Cher will be performing Tuesday,
Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, with the room dark on the other
nights unless an opportunity to book a low-tech comedian presents
itself on off nights. As with the Dion run, Meglen said the upside
for Caesars is that 4,000 people will be walking through the
property four times a week, visiting the gaming facilities and
eating at the restaurants. The first thing that had to happen once
the Cher deal was inked was a complete redesign of the theater.
Over the course of one month, a new sound system was installed in
consultation with Cher as well as Bette Midler and Elton John, who
will be playing the room with their own lavish productions in
alternating runs for the next few years. The Meyer line array
system remained in place, but the 7.5 degree raked stage that was
built for Dion was flattened and replaced with a new stage from
Tait Towers, according to HC Rowe, the executive director of the
Colosseum for AEG Live. “Everybody understood from the
beginning what a challenge this was, and everyone cooperated on the
design elements, and we had to figure out how they work
together,” Rowe said, adding that except for the house PA and
lighting system, there will be no crossover between the production
elements of the John, Midler and Cher shows. Given the smash
success of the Dion residency as well as a series of residencies at
the O2 in London, Meglen said the model is likely to be repeated,
and expanded to such new venues as the O2 World in Berlin, which
opens in October, and Vegas’ new Joint at the Hard Rock
opening in May and the new Echelon Place theater due to open in
2010. “With all those venues that allow us to do more than
one-off business, why not?” Meglen said. “It works in
Las Vegas especially because you’ve got 200-plus thousand
people coming in there every three days who want great restaurants,
hotel shopping and entertainment. It’s probably not something
we’d do in Sacramento or Tucson, but I hope we do it
elsewhere; we like this very much.” — Gil Kaufman
Contacted for this story: John Meglen, (323) 930-5700; HC Rowe,
(702) 866-1453