She still looks sexy as sin and her bourbon-and-molasses voice sounds better than ever, so lay to rest those questions raised during her eight year absence from live performing. There’s nothing wrong with Twain. It’s her show that’s the problem.
As for all those critters, well, she rode a black horse onto the stage near the top of the 100-minute show, finished on a white horse for the finale and played host to a lot of prowling tigers on the giant high-def screen behind her. The bears? They were all lurking subliminally in the piney Canadian backwoods projections that filled the stage on numerous occasions. And let’s not forget the leopard-print outfits that no self-respecting Twain appearance would ever be without.
Her entrance high in the air, flying in on wires, dressed in a catsuit, riding a motorcycle that looked like a stallion, started the mixed messages that the show kept bombarding us with all night.
Is Twain a Vegas diva, or a good ol’ country girl? Are we watching a sex kitten on the prowl in outer space, or someone who wants to hang around the campfire with buddies she picked from the audience, singing feel good songs?
Twain has been very public about how this is “her” show and that she’s been calling all the shots in its creation. So, even though Raj Kapoor bears the title of director, one can’t blame him for a lot of the problems.
Probably the most egregious of the show’s many mistakes is the failure of Twain and her team to comprehend the size of the Colosseum. It’s huge. A solo performer on that stage looks miniature, even from the expensive seats down front. I shudder to think what Twain looked like from the nosebleed section in the second balcony.
But she very rapidly responded to criticisms that there wasn’t enough “Céline” in the show and as the months and years went by, the trappings moved to the background and giant live video screens of Dion filled the stage.
But too often that screen is filled is filled with images Bob Bonniol created that are either distressingly generic or straight out of Shania Fantasy Land.
For example, many of the early numbers feature spinning abstract images that fill the giant screen and I defy anyone to look at the tiny form of Twain downstage centre instead of those swirling spirals.
And the more “creative” videos are almost as bad, featuring Twain with wild animals, the ever present horses (OK, she loves them; we get it) or western fantasy sequences where good and bad Twains have a shootout. Sigh.
Michael Cotten’s sets are an equally mixed bag. The abstract part of it features the flowing drapes that appear in every Vegas show as well as three strange platforms that look like flattened powdered-sugar-frosted Timbits on which the band frequently glide in and out. (They’re a killer group, by the way, including an eight-piece string section who are always in motion, play like divine demons and look better than most Vegas chorus dancers!)
The only visual element that scores properly are the costumes of Marc Bouwer, Twain’s longtime designer, who makes her look like a million bucks in the properly excessive way.
The diehard fans there on opening night loved every second, standing to cheer each song. But there were also lots of other more typical Vegas audience members around me who remained detached throughout.
Twain is still a world-class talent, but if this show is going to work, she needs to find a better way of uniting the folksy moments at the campfire with her sister and the Canadian twin brothers, RyanDan, along with the show-stopping pyrotechnics she brings to her finale: “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” performed before giant sparkling letters that spell out SHANIA!
We know who she is. That’s why we came to see her. She just needs to show us that a lot more clearly, a lot earlier on.