"What you see is real. I am really that high," Dion said happily after flying to the rafters in the premier performance.

Celine Dion opened a three-year gig in the new $95 million Colosseum theater last night (March 25) at Las Vegas' Caesars Palace, literally flying as she belted her chart-busting ballads of love in an at-times surreal show that is arguably the biggest gamble on the Strip. "What you see is real. I am really that high," Dion said happily after flying to the rafters in the premier performance. She is settling down in Las Vegas with the spectacle, waiting for her fans to come to her in a city she described as full of churches and families as well as gambling.

The elaborately choreographed show, dubbed "A New Day," went off without a hitch until the diva's shoes were stolen after she flew off stage in a harness at the end of one song. She padded out in bare feet, smiling as a new pair was brought out for her. Portions of the opening show aired live on a one-hour CBS special, hosted by 'N Sync's Justin Timberlake.

The war with Iraq kept some guests at home, one organizer said, but some celebrities with deep show business roots, like Dick Clark and Barry Manilow, made it. "I compare the show tonight to the opening in 1969 of Elvis at the Hilton," said Dion's husband and manager, Rene Angelil, who negotiated a reported $100 million deal for his wife.

Dion was backed up on stage by about 50 dancers who shimmied in sync, flourished wild, feathery costumes, and performed surrealistic feats such as pushing a piano across the stage -- while suspended about 10 feet above the floor.

But Dion's true co-star was a constantly morphing digital backdrop, a 110-foot by 33-foot LED screen that filled the entire back of the theater. The lights of New York's Times Square flashed as big as life and even faster, an enormous moon threatened to eclipse Dion, and in one scene reminiscent of a big video game, dark clouds rushed behind Roman ruins.

Whether the show will be the ruin of casino owner Park Place Entertainment Corp. is an open question. Casino mogul Steve Wynn, who introduced over-the-top luxury to Las Vegas, said the company could profit even without sharing in receipts on tickets, which go for up to $200 each.


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