It was a night of nostalgia when “Mr. Las Vegas” graced Parx Casino’s Xcite Center stage for an evening of music and memories.
On Aug. 26, Wayne Newton brought his “Up Close and Personal” show to the Bensalem casino, which — even after decades of performing in lavish venues along the Strip — he described as one the “most beautiful” he’s ever seen.
Newton, 81, gave show-goers a lot of bang for their buck, spending two hours on stage singing the classics and regaling the audience with fascinating stories of his early days in the industry.
He created an intimate, interactive environment, cracking jokes with the band and fans alike. A particularly funny moment occurred when he spotted a sign in the crowd, informing Newton that its holder saw him perform 57 years ago. To this, he joked, “Thanks for rushing back to see me!”
Throughout the show, Newton sang a number of favorites, including, naturally, Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas.” But even more special was the Q&A portion of the evening, with his wife of almost 30 years, Kathleen McCrone, asking the questions.
Fans were given an inside look into Newton’s storied life, from his first encounter with Presley (they were dating the same woman!) and his appearance on The Jackie Gleason Show, to his ability to learn 13 instruments without knowing how to read music.
Some recollections were followed by clips shown on the Xcite Center’s big screen. Audience members got to see a young Newton perform a last-minute duet with Glen Campbell, who he revealed had a tendency to change up the lyrics; hilariously get on Jack Benny’s nerves with his array of instruments; and sing alongside a smoking, head-swiveling Dean Martin, who didn’t attend rehearsals and needed to look at the cue cards.
As these clips played, it was heartwarming to watch Newton on the darkened Xcite Center stage. He quietly sang along with the videos and smiled ear-to-ear, clearly just as thrilled as his fans to walk down memory lane.
During one of the final clips, a duet with Sammy Davis Jr., Newton actually did get up and sing along, reliving an unforgettable moment with the late Rat Pack member.
Over the years, Newton has become known for his support of the United States military. He has entertained the troops of every military conflict since — and including — the Vietnam War, was the first USO performer to head to Afghanistan, and serves as chairman of the USO Celebrity Circle, a position he’s held since 2001. As part of “Up Close and Personal,” Newton asked for the lights to be turned on, and for all veterans and first responders to stand up as everyone else in the venue applauded them.
Toward the end of the two hours, Newton gave fans quite the treat: a medley of his four top singles, “Danke Schoen,” “Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” “Summer Wind” and “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast.” Many in the crowd could be seen tearing up as those lyrics of the ‘60s and ‘70s brought back memories of a simpler time.
The night wrapped up with a rendition of his friend Frank Sinatra’s hit “My Way,” which Newton changed to “Our Way” as he expressed gratitude toward the fans who stuck with him all these years.
Looking ahead, Newton isn’t slowing down anytime soon … especially when it comes to his beloved Las Vegas, where he boasts a record-setting run of 25,000-plus shows. He recently announced on TODAY that he’s extending his current residency at the Flamingo Hotel through next summer, adding 62 dates to his schedule.
He said, “They [Vegas] took me in at 15 years old and gave me a home, and I’ve been there ever since.”
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org