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article imageReview: Elton John's 'Million Dollar Piano' film hits theaters this week Special

By Mindy Peterman     Mar 16, 2014 in Entertainment
45 years after Elton John took the music world by storm, his first concert film makes its debut in theaters around the globe.
Elton John has enjoyed two residences at The Colosseum in Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas. The first, in 2004, was known as The Red Piano, and was enhanced by a glitzy stage show that featured videos by David LaChappelle. Those videos commanded a good deal of attention. From Pamela Anderson pole dancing to Justin Timberlake playing the role of a ‘70’s era Elton, it was hard to keep your eyes off the screens. That show, which was mainly a salute to the Elton John hits catalog, was a huge success.
In 2009, The Red Piano show breathed its last and in September of 2011, Elton's Million Dollar Piano show debuted at the same venue.
Although videos are still a part of The Million Dollar Piano show (which has been doing bang-up business at the box office since it began), the focus is more on the band, the gloriously artful stage decor, and, of course, the piano. The Los Angeles Times describes the stage set-up this way: “you have to pay attention to the details, such as the jumbo piano-roll swirls that flank the piano player and change colors throughout the night, shifting from gold to ruby to emerald to sapphire.”
Now the show is making its way to the big screen in The Million Dollar Piano movie.
The piano, which during the course of the film Elton reveals is named Blossom (after famed jazz artist Blossom Dearie), is as flamboyant as Elton was back in the ’70s. Created by Yamaha, the piano has more than 68 LED video screens, which enhance each song played. It is more than up to the task of being the centerpiece of such an impressive show.
The band is top-notch, as always, with Davey Johnstone (guitars and vocals), Nigel Olsson (drums and vocals), the late Bob Birch (bass), John Mahon (percussion and vocals) and Kim Bullard (keyboards) plus 2CELLOS (Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic), backing vocalists Rose Stone, Tata Vega, Jean Witherspoon and Lisa Stone, and percussionist Ray Cooper.
If you’re a long-time fan, the setlist holds few surprises. Mainly there are familiar classics like The Bitch Is Back, Philadelphia Freedom, and Your Song. But there is a reverential bow to fans who have been with Elton for the long haul: from his energetic rock star roots to his glam-rock superstardom, through his challenges with addiction, well-publicized tantrums, and less than stellar creative output. This segment for the faithful is a gift that features only Elton and his percussionist, the brilliant Ray Cooper. They perform two songs: “Better Off Dead” from Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, and the true wonder of wonders, “Indian Sunset” from Madman Across the Water. If you are a died-in-the-wool, hardcore Elton fan, you will watch these performances open-mouthed and in awe, overjoyed to see Elton still has it in him to remember the deep album cuts and do them justice. These performances provide the most moving moments of the film.
If you’ve never seen Elton John live (or even if you have), and love his music, go see the film. It will entertain you and, like the best music shows, will have you humming the hits as you leave the theater. It is in limited release this week in 1,200 theaters in 40 countries around the world. The schedule and ticket information is here.
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