Barry Manilow brings the hits back to Vegas
With the recent revelation that Bally’s Jubilee Theater will be completely transformed into a different venue to accommodate a motorcycle stunt show next year, it’s not a bad time to take stock of the Las Vegas Strip’s dwindling supply of classic showrooms. The entertainment landscape continues to evolve and get bigger, but there will always be a demand for the kind of vintage Vegas vibes you can only get in one of these rare rooms.
One could argue there’s only one truly great old-school theater left, and it’s just off the Strip at Westgate Las Vegas. The International Theater has been home to Barbra Streisand, Elvis Presley and Liberace when this resort was the International Hotel and then the Las Vegas Hilton, and its most successful modern-day star has returned in 2018.
Barry Manilow is an ideal fit for the current versions of this room and this resort, where he performed Manilow: Music and Passion and Ultimate Manilow: The Hits from 2005 to 2010. His new production, Manilow Las Vegas: The Hits Come Home, splashes some colorful new touches across his tried-and-true blueprint for giving his dedicated fans all the music they love. Be prepared for sing-alongs and standing ovations when you file into the International Theater for this musical experience.
The first big audience connection point comes when the lyrics to the chorus of “Can’t Smile Without You” are flashed on video screens during Manilow’s performance of the 1978 smash, as if everyone in the building doesn’t already know all the words. Next, enjoy some storytelling detailing his grandfather’s discovery of his musical talent when Manilow was just a child, followed by a particularly powerful performance of “This One’s For You.”
A fun and silly 3-D tour of New York City allows the legendary singer and songwriter to inject some extra humor into the production, although he’s clearly comfortable joking about his image and reputation in between songs. As he has done for years in Las Vegas performances, Manilow slips into singing his first No. 1 hit, “Mandy,” by playing a clip from his breakthrough 1975 appearance on The Midnight Special musical variety series. The fact that his voice sounds so close to the way it did some 43 years ago is not lost on his audience, which erupts when Manilow harmonizes with his younger self to complete an epic presentation.
The new show closes with “I Write the Songs” and a dance-party celebration to “Copacabana,” during which a huge horseshoe staircase descends from the theater’s ceiling, allowing Manilow to get close to the fans in the balcony. It’s a grand moment in this grand Vegas room, likely another memorable musical event installed in the legacy of the International Theater.
Westgate Las Vegas, 7 p.m. Sept. 27-29, Oct. 4-6, $21.53-$216.91 plus tax and fee. 702.732.5111