Published Wednesday, March 30, 2016 | 5:45 p.m.
Updated Thursday, March 31, 2016 | 10:30 a.m.
To break “the fourth wall” of live performance, Wayne Newton first needed to find four walls. Mr. Las Vegas has found them at the second-floor Windows Showroom at Bally’s.
In his first Las Vegas interview about a topic that has wound around the Strip entertainment scene for months, Newton detailed his new residency, “Wayne Newton: Up Close and Personal,” at Bally’s, which is to begin April 21 and run four nights per week at 7:30 p.m. (the weekly schedule is fluid and as-yet undetermined).
He is to play 32 weeks a year, with tickets priced at $75, or $150 for VIP seats and a meet-and-greet. An on-sale date is April 7, and tickets will be available at (702) 777-2782 and TicketMaster.com.
“Up Close and Personal” marks Newton’s first foray into a Strip residency since he closed “Once Before I Go” at Tropicana in April 2010. His most recent ticketed performance anywhere in Southern Nevada was Dec. 6, 2014, at E Center at Edgewater in Laughlin.
With his Casa de Shenandoah museum and tour in full force, Newton seems not to need to perform to keep professionally fulfilled. And, the final night of his shows at the Trop did carry an air of finality, at least for that type of full Strip residency.
What led to him entertaining another headlining gig in Las Vegas?
“I am happiest when I am working,” Newton says during a conversation today at his Las Vegas home, which is about 1 1/2 miles from Casa de Shenandoah. “By working, I don’t mean doing things at the Shenandoah. I mean entertaining.”
Newton can spin a pretty fair yarn, too. Thus, “Up Close and Personal” is a loosely structured exercise in singing, musicianship, storytelling and what is expected to be lively banter with the audience.
“I guess, because of how young I was when I started here, I have become the spokesman of what Las Vegas was and what it has become,” Newton said with a chuckle. “Whenever I am on TV talk shows and those kinds of things, they want to hear Old Vegas stories.”
This is a different type of presentation for Newton, whose showroom production usually has him delivering his own hits and popular standards while backed by an orchestra. In “Up Close and Personal,” he’ll be playing with a four-piece band, led by his longtime music director and pianist Don Vincent, and three backup singers.
Spread out on the stage will be Newton’s favorite instruments. All 13 of them, including banjo, guitar and piano.
“I can play them all,” Newton says, “and I’ll be ready to play any of them.”
Enveloped in the show’s format is an opportunity for audience members to ask questions of Newton while he’s onstage, a piece of daring-do considering audience members can conjure up questions from any angle.
“We’ll hand out pamphlets to people as they arrive and just say, ‘Do you have anything you’d like to ask Wayne Newton?’ ” Newton says. “I can give people an insight to what it was like in 1959 and what it is today. There will be a lot of dialogue with the audience, which I invite because I have always liked talking to my fans.”
Musically, there is to be no fixed setlist, though Newton expects to take on “Danke Schoen” regularly. “I’d say that 35 to 40 percent of the show will be us playing music and taking requests from the audience. The band knows how to follow me.” The show is to run about 80 minutes, and Newton is open to presenting emerging talent in the context of his performances.
“This could be the place for someone who might not have made the cut in ‘America’s Got Talent’ to sing to an audience,” Newton said. “Being able to do that intrigues me because there is so much negativity going on in the world, it would be great to give entertainers a chance to realize their dreams.”
The venue is something of a surprise call, given that Newton had toured any number of venues in the Caesars Entertainment collection of hotel-casinos and also entertained a possible residency at a room to be developed (but never was) at Monte Carlo. Most recently, Newton was at the center of kinetic talk of him moving into the room at Paris Las Vegas where hypnotist Anthony Cools headlines.
Newton had been spotted scouting Windows, which has hosted many variety of productions over the recent past, including the current shows “Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding” and “50 Shades! The Parody.” The producers of those shows are Ken and Helene Walker, and similar to that sublease agreements, Newton is renting Windows from Bally’s in a schedule that has no set end date.
“We’ll go for as long as we want to go,” he says. “What is most important is the room has an ‘old’ feel, and by old I mean it feels like a classic Las Vegas showroom.”
The venue has been renovated and reconfigured to reflect the sort of proper showroom feel Newton favors. Windows is to seat 320 to 350 for his shows.
The idea of naming that room for Newton, similar to how Stardust renamed its showroom Wayne Newton Theater, “is being discussed,” Newton says.
“We were looking for something that we’d been talking about even in the development of the property across from Shenandoah, which is a showroom that was like the old Copa Room at the Sands,” Newton said, referring to the old Napa Valley building across from Shenandoah on Sunset Road that is now the Casa de Shenandoah visitors center.
“I was really looking for that type of room, and this isn’t to say we won’t someday build something like that at Shenandoah. But I have always liked a room where the audience was right there in front of you.”
Among the hotel-casinos Newton has played in Las Vegas, a list that includes the Sands, Flamingo, Caesars Palace, Frontier, Stardust, Las Vegas Hilton and Tropicana and the new MGM Grand, was the old MGM Grand — today Bally’s. That was during the 1970s, when MGM was one of the city’s most famous entertainment destinations.
Newton especially remembers hiring carpenters to cut out a second doorway to the dressing room at his headlining showroom, the Celebrity Room.
“I’ve always had a phobia about having a second entrance and exit to where I was performing,” Newton said. “We had this done, and Mr. (Kirk) Kerkorian never knew it had happened.”
Great story, one of many that Newton can save for the stage. For now, he’s carved out another entrance to that famed hotel.