Monday, Sept. 29, 2008 | 2 a.m.
IF YOU GO
What: Donny & Marie
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 4 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Showroom at the Flamingo
Admission: $85-$250; 733-3111, www.harrahs.com
Running time: Approximately 90 minutes
Beyond the Sun
Is it too late to nominate Donny and Marie for President?
OK, then. But what about president of Las Vegas?
Think about it: America’s First Brother and Sister are running on a pro-lively, antidepressant, universally entertaining platform. They’re pretty much scandal-free. We’ve all seen them grow up on television. They work the stage and screen like lifelong politicians, and no one alive — not even Bill Clinton — can grin, wave, point, wink and make eye contact like they can.
The toothsome twosome surely smile even while sleeping.
They’re installed for a six-month run at the Flamingo, but they could easily reign for four years — and be reelected by a landslide for another term.
The 90-minute show — it’s simply called “Donny & Marie,” because that’s exactly what it is — revives and revitalizes the idea of the classic performer-based Vegas revue.
Sure, there are eight energetic dancers, a nine-piece band with horns, light-up staircases, video montages and all the now-expected stuff on the showroom stage. But every effect serves solely to enhance the endearing and enduring duo.
It’s a money’s-worth show: The stars (he’s 50, she’s 48) look great, sound swell, and in the Flamingo’s human-scaled showroom you’re guaranteed a good look at them wherever you sit — if you’re seated anywhere near the stage, you’re more than likely to be able to touch them.
As solo artists and as a duo they don’t have the bottomless catalog of hits that Strip headliners Elton John and Cher enjoy, and it’s unlikely anyone would sit still for 90 minutes of either one of them separately. But together they’re irresistible. Corny, but irresistible.
After a round of duets, Marie gets a solo spot, nodding to her country-pop hits with a snip of “Paper Roses.” She rocks out Janet Jackson-style, flirts with the audience a bit, races through a sort of random Broadway medley, and indulges her recent interest in opera by prettily warbling Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Pie Jesu.”
Then it’s Donny’s turn, and he storms out, giving his “rock” hit “Soldier of Love” the full George Michael treatment. And he clearly enjoys paying tribute to his idol Stevie Wonder on a few numbers.
Donny knows what’s required of him, and he does his duty manfully, addressing his teen idol legacy with unplugged-style renditions of “Go Away Little Girl” and “Puppy Love” with affection and dignity. More than a trace of that youthful croon remains in his warm baritone. There’s a bit of his Broadway hit, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” (with video of a buff Donny rocking a loincloth), and funks it up a bit at the piano on the Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing.”
Marie rejoins him for more bratty banter (“I couldn’t get any sleep, my room is so bright — they put me behind Marie’s teeth,” Donny says, joking about the “little poster” that wraps around the front of the Flamingo), and the inescapable “A Little Bit Country, a Little Bit Rock and Roll.”
Entertainers since conception, these two are all-pro, all the time, and they’re really beyond concepts of sincerity or authenticity of interpretation. But they’re not robotic or on autopilot. They don’t overreach for hipness. Their bickering feels loose and spontaneous. They get winded, and work up a sweat. They flub lyrics (Donny flashed an adorably sheepish look when he missed a cue).
In a hilarious nod to Marie’s recent appearance on “Dancing With the Stars,” they work out their sibling rivalry with a climactic dance-off, comically set to the Sharks vs. Jets theme from “West Side Story” and tunes from “Grease.”
By the end of the evening, it’s hard not to get a lump in the throat or a tear in the eye, when they roll a montage of their entirely televised lives, with a galaxy of stars including just about everyone who has ever played Vegas.
Best of all, Donny & Marie sit right there onstage and watch themselves on TV with us.
They’ve got my vote, and not just because Donny fist-bumped me.