The popularity of 'The Accused' nightlife show at Providence, inside The Quarter at Tropicana in Atlantic City.
ATLANTIC CITY — Bob Periera wasn’t really looking to create one of the most innovative entertainment ideas to hit Atlantic City in years.
All he wanted to do was find a way to jump-start the dance floor of Providence, the high-tech nightclub he owns in The Quarter at the Tropicana.
“The first hour or so of a nightclub is people standing around looking at an empty dance floor,” Periera tells Atlantic City Weekly. “People are trying to get the [courage] to be the first ones on the floor.”
So Periera, who also has three nightclubs in Manhattan, turned to a time-tested Atlantic City showroom staple to shake things up in his club: A good old fashioned casino revue complete with music, minimally clad women, sexy dancers and specialty acts.
But this isn’t your garden variety show that white-haired tour bus visitors were once treated to before being turned loose at the slot machines. This show has an edge, an attitude, a vibe — and a different ending every time it’s performed.
It’s called “The Accused — Nightlife on Trial,” and every Saturday night, a rotating cast of variety artists is put on “trial,” hoping their talent will impress the audience whose applause determines guilt or innocence.
From the moment the show was introduced in September in the 14,000-square-foot club, Periera discovered his missing nightclub link.
Actually, “The Accused” serves several marketing purposes. Not only does it provide an opening jolt to the dance floor, but it broadens the club’s demographics. The show is beginning to attract people outside the 20- and early 30-somethings who are traditionally drawn to this kind of nightclub, where things really don’t get started until midnight and go strong until 4am and later.
“We’re seeing people coming in who are in their 40s, 50s and 60s,” Periera says. “They see the show and get a feel for the nightlife. And they don’t get the see this type of show or these performers up close like they do here. When you usually go see a show like this, you’re seated far away and paying a bigger ticket price.”
Periera told club talent booker Tad Emptage he wanted to create a show that would provide a seamless transition from the production to dancing without missing a beat. Emptage and Eric Walton, a writer and actor who plays the district attorney in “The Accused,” developed the idea of putting nightlife on trial. Walton wrote the script, complete with eyebrow-raising double entendres and sexy word play.
To give the show a different look each week, Periera recruited performers from Cirque-tacular Entertainment, a company that specializes in cirque-style shows and artists. The key, he said, was to book performers for “The Accused” who are looking to pick up extra work between shows.
“If I had to contract these performers for six months in such a small venue, it wouldn’t make financial sense,” he says.
At its heart, the layout of “The Accused” is simplicity at its best, but there are still a lot of moving parts to the show.
During a recent performance, some of the acts on trial included acrobatic aerialists, a mini-Michael Jackson, a tap dancer and a kitten-with-a-whip, who is one of the world’s best female bullwhip artists.
Each “defendant” is paraded in front of the audience, and Walton recites the “charges.” The artist performs, and the “defense” attorney (played by Bradford Scobie) asks the audience to determine guilt or innocence. More often than not, the defendants are all acquitted.
Near the end of the 90-minute show (which includes an intermission), the “courtroom” erupts into controlled mayhem. With pulsing dance club music filling the club, even the judge gets into the act when she comes down off the bench to perform an exotic, burlesque-style bubble dance.
While the cast is dancing and pulling patrons out of their seats and onto the floor, club employees are quickly whisking away the small round tables and chairs near the dance floor and losing the stanchions that separate artists from audience. Unlike a more traditional show that has a formal ending, “The Accused” actually doesn’t end; instead, the club magically morphs into its familiar vibe with the cast dancing with guests.
“It’s a seamless flow into nightlife,” Periera says. “The energy the show creates keeps going. The people who are arriving in the club at the end of the show can’t believe what they’re seeing, and now we’re starting to see them come back but come earlier so they can see the whole show.”
The new, audience-interactive show at the Tropicana called The Accused: Nightlife on Trial may resemble some of the revue shows and variety acts that have visited Atlantic City in the past, but it’s completely unique in how it draws audience members into the plot and ties the individual acts together in an amusing way.
The interactive show at Providence nightclub has audience members deciding the fate of elite acrobats, burlesque and variety-act performers charged with comical crimes.
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