03/05/2002 at 01:00 AM EST
When Celine Dion opens in Las Vegas a year from now, she may help bring back to the desert playground the glory days of entertainment, when the nation's top headliners played the town, speculates the Los Angeles Times. The Canadian pop diva, 33, is scheduled to initiate a new $95 million, 4,000-seat theater at Caesars Palace to house her production on the venue's 22,000-sq.-ft. stage. The spectacle is booked into Caesars for an exclusive three-year run. The Times notes that tying herself to Caesars will prevent Dion from touring or doing extensive promotion on the road to help drive album sales and vital radio airplay, but it will allow her to perform for fans while maintaining a steady home and regular schedule for her 1-year-old son, Rene-Charles Angelil. Her engagement also will mark the first time in years that top-drawer entertainment will appear on the fabled Vegas Strip -- first made famous by Frank Sinatra and his crowd -- and which of late has been overtaken by fairly anonymous special effects extravaganzas (save for Siegfried & Roy and the Cirque du Soleil). Says Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of Pollstar, a concert business trade publication: "In terms of contemporary music acts, it used to be you lost all your credibility if you (played Vegas). That's not the case anymore. The very hippest acts can play there now with no stigma at all." He thinks Dion's deal may inspire other stars -- and points to the success of the country music scene in Branson, Mo., as a template. "It can be the best of all worlds for the artist," he said. "In a way, Celine Dion may be pioneering that in the pop world. And what better place than Vegas?"