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Still The One

Shania Twain, the Queen of Country Pop, takes up residence at Caesars Palace

By Rob Wiser

 

After a long hiatus from performing, Twain is back in spectacular fashion on one of the world’s most iconic stages. “I’ve been away a long time, and this is the most wonderful welcome,” she smiled at her media event on the Strip, clearly savoring the moment. “I cannot wait to start singing again for my fans.”

Shania Twain sure knows how to make an entrance. On November 15, the reigning queen of country pop galloped into Las Vegas history when she arrived on horseback for her official welcome as a Caesars Palace headliner. The gorgeous 47-year-old Canadian star followed a posse of 40 horses with wranglers down a closed section of the Strip, arriving at the fountains at Caesars where she was awaited by crowds of screaming fans and photographers.

Shania Twain’s smash hit “Still The One” blasted on speakers as she stepped onto an outdoor stage near the Caesars Palace fountains, which were made famous by events including daredevil Evel Knievel’s motorcycle crash during a stunt on New Year’s Eve, 1967.

The media event was held in honor of Twain’s 3-year headline run at Caesars, which officially kicked off on Dec. 1 and has brought her back to the spotlight after being out of the public eye for a number of years. Her show, “Shania Twain: Still The One,” directed by Raj Kapoor, has made her the latest superstar to forge a long-term pact with the legendary resort and headline at its Colosseum concert venue.

Another Colosseum Superstar

Celebrating its 10th anniversary next March, the nearly 4,300-seat, state-of-the-art hall also counts among its resident headliners Celine Dion, Sir Elton John and Rod Stewart. (Cher and Better Midler were also headliners in recent years.) Technically, the Colosseum is regarded as one of the most sophisticated concert venues in the world. And by luring some of the world’s most successful stars to take up residency—playing the same stage for weeks and months at a time, making audiences come to them rather than going on tour— the Colosseum has forever changed Las Vegas’ reputation as a place where faded stars came for the final acts of their careers. The Colosseum now showcases superstars at the peak of their powers.

Shania Twain is doing big business,” Gary Selesner, president of Caesars Palace, said at the event. “We’re literally sold out for her first run, and she’s already selling strongly for the second that starts in March…Caesars now has two of the highest record sellers of all time with Celine and Shania. We have the two sides of the coin. Celine is a world-class crooner with a huge palate of songs, and Shania is rural, urban and earthy.”

Shania Twain, a 5-time Grammy Award winner, is the second best-selling artist in Canadian history, behind Celine Dion.  She has sold more than 85 million albums worldwide; her 1997 blockbuster Come On Over is the best-selling studio album of all time by a female act, and the best-selling country album of all time.

The Road To Stardom

The story behind her road to stardom is the stuff of showbiz legend. Born Eilleen Regina Edwards in Windsor, Ontario, her parents divorced when she was two and her mother then moved to Timmins, Ontario with Eilleen and her sisters. Her mother Sharon married Jerry Twain, who adopted the girls, legally changing their last name to Twain.

Eilleen Twain had a tough childhood in the remote, rugged community of Timmins. Her parents earned little; Twain started singing at bars at the tender age of eight to earn money to help put food on the table. By the age of ten, she was writing songs. In her teen years, she performed in local bands, and in 1984, she was noticed by a Toronto DJ who brought her to Nashville to record some demos.

It was rock producer Robert “Mutt” Lange who helped  Shania  Twain break through to stardom. The famed producer offered to produce and write songs with her, and when record executives heard the resulting album, it stunned them. The songs were unlike anything else in country music.

The album that resulted from Lange and Twain’s collaboration,The Woman in Me, was released in the spring of 1995. The album spawned a flurry of hits, including “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?,” “Any Man of Mine,”  “The Woman in Me,” and the No. 1 hits “(If You’re Not in it for Love) I’m Outta Here!,” “You Win My Love,” and “No One Needs to Know.” The album eventually sold more than 12 million copies.

Twain’s follow-up album, Come On Over, catapulted her to a new level of popularity and made her a bonafide crossover star, as her music brought together pop and country fans. Major tours, television appearances and millions more record sales followed, earning her a place among the top musical superstars of her generation.

Return To the Stage

Now, after a long hiatus from performing, Twain is back in spectacular fashion on one of the world’s most iconic stages. “I’ve been away a long time, and this is the most wonderful welcome,” she smiled at her media event on the Strip, clearly savoring the moment. “I cannot wait to start singing again for my fans.”

“I’m realizing just how good director Raj Kapoor is—a genius,” Twain said at her media event. “He is leading the next generation of directors. The show is at 100 minutes right now, and we’ll probably have it at 110 minutes for opening night. It races along. It all goes so fast, yet it’s longer than other shows on the Strip. That’s a good sign. It doesn’t drop for a moment.”

 

Behind The Scenes With Raj Kapoor

The director of Shania’s show says it’s her biggest and best yet  

Los Angeles-based director Raj Kapoor has directed numerous musical tours and television specials. He has overseen tours for American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, and Dancing With the Stars, as well as for artists such as Carrie Underwood, Jonas Brothers, and Demi Lovato.

Casino Player caught up with the busy director to learn more about his collaboration with Shania Twain, and what fans can expect when she takes the stage at the Colosseum.

Raj, how did you come onboard this show and start working with Shania?

The process started in December of 2011. I first met with John Meglen of AEG (the company that is producing the show) and from that meeting, I was invited to meet with Shania and her team in New York City the first week of January. I was hired two weeks later and we have not stopped since then.

How would you describe Shania Twain as a performer? What are her greatest strengths?

Shania Twain is one of the most amazing performers I have ever worked with. Her natural charm, stage presence and showmanship are talents that cannot be taught. She is a consummate professional in everything she does. She is so aware of her audience and her relationship to them, and it makes for such an enjoyable viewing experience. Even in rehearsals, it’s like Shania never left the public eye and she’s picking up right where she left off—but this show is even bigger and better than anything she has previously done.

Shania will be joining an illustrious list of superstars who have played long-term engagements at the Caesars Palace Colosseum. How do you think Shania’s show will compare to what we’ve seen from Celine, Elton John, Rod Stewart and the others?

I have seen every superstar show that has played at Caesars Palace Colosseum. It’s one of the most amazing stages in the world and has limitless possibilities. Every show has their own unique perspective and spin on how that particular artist is presented, which reflects their individual personality. We wanted to create a show that combines a live concert feel with theatrical production elements, so that it’s a hybrid mix of styles. We’ve also brought in some very unique elements that help to extend the onstage presentation to the live audience, for more of a “4D” feel. This includes special effects, projections and even unique scents that were specifically created just for “Still The One.”

At the time of this interview, opening night is a couple of weeks away. How are rehearsals going?

We’re in the Colosseum seven days a week with a rotating crew that is staying busy almost 24 hours a day. There are many moving pieces to this show, and it’s progressing beautifully. It’s so exciting to see what we’ve been planning for almost a year become reality, and we cannot wait to share it with a live audience.

Can you give me some details on the show? Is there a concept behind it?

The concept of the show is Shania’s greatest hits. We wanted to give her audience big production elements with big scale that take advantage of the Colosseum stage, and then strip everything away and have her share intimate acoustic moments as well. The show has a 13-piece band and four male dancers. It’s fast moving, with surprises around every corner—but strip all of that away, and it’s still about Shania and the music that everyone loves.

What’s it like to collaborate with Shania?

Shania is one of the most collaborative artists I’ve ever had the honor of working with. She is filled with ideas and wants to know every single detail of the show. She has left no stone unturned, and I think the audience will be very much aware of how much time and energy she has personally invested in this project when they see it for themselves. The show is a direct reflection of where she is in her life and what a great performer she is. She has always broken boundaries and been a trendsetter. This show continues the tradition.

Tell me your thoughts on the Colosseum as a venue. It’s certainly one-of-a-kind…

The Colosseum is an incredible venue. It really has some of the best production elements in the world, including the lighting package, sound, video capabilities, and rigging. We’re trying to maximize the look of the show and want to take advantage of everything the theater has to offer. Besides the amazing stage capabilities, one of the greatest attributes of the venue is the staff that works there all year round. It’s one of the most professional crews in the business and it makes working in the venue an absolute joy.

On a personal note, besides directing the show, how are you enjoying your time in Las Vegas?

I love Vegas. The shows, shopping, spas, and restaurants are some of the best in the world. We really don’t have much time off yet, but we are addicted to Joe’s Stone Crab in the Forum Shops. It has become our daily addiction. Come out and see Shania Twain.

 

Shania Twain – Still the One

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