''Can you believe I'm 99 years old and I'm excited by something that's new like this?'' So quipped Barry Manilow, seated at a piano, during a Tuesday press conference in Las Vegas, where he confirmed that he's joining Celine Dion and Elton John as a long-term headliner-in-residence. The pop crooner plans a stage show, complete with an orchestra and dancers, to be called ''Manilow: Music and Passion,'' that will debut on Feb. 23 at the Las Vegas Hilton and run through 2006.
Manilow (whose age is given in various biographies as 58 or 61) said he decided that the 22-city tour he completed this summer would be his last. ''I used to kid around with my audiences, and I used to say, 'Why don't you just come over to my house from now on?''' he said at the press conference, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. ''I was kidding, but you just never know in this life when your jokes are going to come true.''At the Hilton, he'll perform 120 shows five shows a week for 24 non-consecutive weeks. An early report of the deal in the New York Post said it would be worth as much as $60 million to Manilow, though a source close to the deal told Reuters that the figure was ''far less'' than that. As Caesars Palace did for Dion, the Hilton will renovate an auditorium for Manilow, one that will seat 1,700 fans.
The ''Copacabana'' singer told reporters that the set list would change every night and would include new music, including a song he's writing about Las Vegas that he hopes will become the city's new theme song, à la Kander and Ebb's ''New York, New York.'' No doubt it will go something like this: ''At the Hil-ton, Hilton Las Ve-gas/The hotspot that pays Barry's wages...''