The flying saucer descends to the stage of the Vegas Hilton in a swamp-gas riot of dry-ice foggers and gelled lights.

Through the actual haze (and the one brought on by the showroom’s three-drink minimum), the audience discerns the silhouette of a figure in silvery space suit and mirrored helmet. When the cosmic emissary at last stands revealed in the spots, he imparts to us his message.

The welcoming sign-language of the
Close Encounters” clothing-optional ETs? The pacifist ultimatum of Klaatu from “The Day the Earth Stood Still“? Actually, it’s, “Far…we been travelin’ so far…,” the opening lyrics of “America,Neil Diamond’s epic anthem from his 1980 remake of “The Jazz Singer.”


Less than an hour later, Wayne Newton has this early-show crowd of bus-trip seniors, buffet sightseers and budget-inn smugsters by the short and curlies. A Tom Jones pelvic thrust here, a banjo solo there and this master entertainer — they call him MISter Las Vegas — has once more produced the stuff that’s made him the only showbiz shaman to stake a credible claim on the legacies of both Elvis and Bob Hope.

The saucers don’t land at the Red Bank one-nighters the way they did back in that years-ago extended engagement at the Hilton. But when Newton returns to the stage of the Count Basie Theatre this Thursday night, he’ll be doing his part to transform the early-to-bed streets of wintry Hip City into a reasonable facsimile of the classic Vegas Strip. He’ll be doing it with the patented mix of whip-smart savvy showmanship, apple-cheeked good humor and other people’s signature hits that have made him an unassailable Living Legend.

And, unlike “The Kid from Red Bank” Basie, he’s seen things named after him in his lifetime — things like Wayne Newton Boulevard near McCarran International Airport, and the Wayne Newton Showroom at the Stardust, a venue that the 65-year old performer has actually outlived.

The man who famously reconfigured himself from the high-voiced and oddly proportioned boy singer of the early 1960s (“Danke Schoen,” “Red Roses for a Blue Lady“) to the swaggering bronze colossus of the concert stage continues to investigate opportunities to make the acquaintance of new audiences; from recent appearances on “Dancing with the Stars” to his own reality show a couple of seasons back.

He was one of the first of the old-school entertainers to really “get” the value of a little self-parody in the Age of Irony, and despite having performed nearly 30,000 shows in his time, he somehow manages to make each and every audience feel as if they’re seeing every time-tested bit of well-rehearsed “spontaneity” for the first time. Expect lots of hugs and kisses, salutes to our armed forces, and a setlist that ranges from the best of Elvis, Hank Williams and Sinatra to the likes of Billy and the Beaters.

Tickets for the 7:30p show, presented by Arena Entertainment, are priced at $50 and $80, and can be purchased online from the Count Basie Theatre website.

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