By Chris Willman
Updated April 04, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

High hopes were inevitable after word came that Celine Dion was working with visionary ex-Cirque du Soleil director Franco Dragone to create a kind of hybrid Las Vegas show that promised to cross-pollinate a pop concert with his unique brand of surreal, costumed athleticism. You might even have fantasized Dion starring in his watery spectacle O, wailing her Titanic theme alongside the show’s dancers and acrobats while everyone gradually descends into its massive pool.

No one gets dunked in A New Day…, which is booked for the next three years at Caesars Palace. No one gets amazed, either. Maybe Cirque pulled an ”intellectual property rights” clause on the departing Dragone, because Day breaks without his gymnastic, circusy trademarks. You do get a 150-foot LED screen, surprisingly effective at creating the illusion of real sets, and 48 dancers, surprisingly ineffective at creating the illusion of momentum. Plus Celine, who gamely gallops through a fairly conventional hits ‘n’ standards set list, taking breaks for a few dance steps or an into-the-rafters Cathy Rigby moment.

And what rafters. The show’s high point, literally, has Dion cap ”The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by floating into a ceiling about as stratospheric as Vegas’ own Stratosphere. (Her Day’s take — a reported $100 million — reaches dizzying heights as well.) On opening night, upon reappearing at ground zero, she was barefoot, confessing her shoes had gotten lost in the backstage transition. (”My size is eight,” she informed the ladies, pleadingly.) This humanizing moment offered more money’s-worth value than that nifty wide-screen television backdrop or the parade of floating props with which Dragone means to string us along, though stray high rollers lacking a taste for coloratura may find hovering lampposts and insta-grow trees welcome diversions.

Choreographer Mia Michaels seems hamstrung by the long spells of balladry; the dancers seem in danger of getting cited for loitering. When, finally, during ”Love Can Move Mountains” and Stevie Wonder’s ”I Wish,” they’re called upon to run up the aisles and boogie, the show suddenly becomes an inadvertent parody of ”The Nicest Kids in Town,” the hilarious Hairspray number that, in turn, spoofs American Bandstand’s wholesome ’60s regulars.

The most baffling Dragone touch is a bald fellow in white who stands in the background through all 23 numbers. His role is ambiguous, but given that Dion slightly resembles Norma Desmond from a distance, I began to imagine the baldie in the Erich von Stroheim role, a director-turned-manservant who willingly sacrifices his vision for the diva’s. Dion might do better without the help; fans can hope she keeps losing her shoes while this never terrible, never inspiring show finds its footing. (888-995-1555)