With Atlantic City seemingly poised on the brink of its long-awaited comeback, an endangered form of casino entertainment is also showing signs of new life.
After lying dormant for years, traditional old-school casino revues — the kinds that titillate audiences with scantily clad showgirls and mildly suggestive choreography — have resurfaced.
Although casinos never completely abandoned production shows as a fixed-cost alternative to more costly headliners, the look of the revues has changed dramatically.
Shows that once focused on flesh, feathers and towering headpieces on statuesque showgirls were gradually replaced by revues that stripped away the not-so-subtle sexiness. In their places emerged theme-type shows that paid tributes to various musical genres or put the spotlight on illusionists or entertainer-athletes in the style of the successful Cirque du Soleil series so popular in Las Vegas and on worldwide tour.
The Atlantic City Hilton, whose owners are seeking a buyer for the struggling, cash-strapped resort, last week debuted a new floorshow titled Boardwalk Follies.
The show’s format recalls the early years of the Atlantic City casino era by wrapping production numbers around performances by a featured singer and a pair of variety acts.
The Hilton show is built on a time-honored casino showroom formula. Boardwalk Follies features musical production numbers performed by a line of sexy young dancers; a featured singer, Jacklyn Maffucci; an exciting young magician named Michael Turco; and the heart-pounding thrills of an aerial act fittingly known as the Aerial Sisters.
But it’s the new show at the re-energized Resorts Casino Hotel, now under the management of owner and casino turn-around maven Dennis Gomes, that stole the spotlight with its production titled Moonshine Follies — and that was several weeks before it even opened.
In a stunt lifted right out of old-time Las Vegas — which is Gomes’ native stomping grounds — the throwback production attracted national headlines and air time with a controversial billboard.
The board was as strategically placed as the strings of beads that did little to hide the shapely bare tush of a young woman that jumped off the sign. The billboard greets thousands of people who arrive in Atlantic City every day via the Atlantic City Expressway because it towers directly over the New Jersey Transit train station at the Convention Center.
Although a handful of people expressed indignation at the fleshy photo, the billboard also brings to mind an observation from the late Atlantic City attorney Murray Fredericks when he was asked about the city’s vice-ridden days during Prohibition.
“If the people who came to town had wanted Bible readings, we’d have given ’em that,” Fredericks was quoted as saying in Boardwalk Empire, author Nelson Johnson’s warts-and-all historical account of Atlantic City’s tawdry and lawless past, and the inspiration for the HBO series of the same name.
“But nobody ever asked for Bible readings,” Fredericks added. “They wanted booze, broads and gambling, so that’s what we gave ’em.”
Ironically, Johnson even figured in this push to promote Resorts’ new show and improve the bottom line. In his day job as a New Jersey Superior Court judge, Johnson ruled that New Jersey Transit, which owns the land upon which the billboard sits, couldn’t touch the sign before a full hearing scheduled for March 10.
Gomes, who’s as well known for his marketing stunts as he is for revitalizing struggling casinos, noted that people see more flesh on the beach every summer than the billboard reveals. And, he pointed out, the new look and marketing strategy at his casino recalls the 1920s, a fairly decadent period in American history.
“We are the ’20s,” says Gomes. “We are fun, full of life and ready to bring the excitement of the 1920s to the stage. This show is sure to keep audiences entertained and the caliber of the performance will be second to none in Atlantic City.”
Gomes, who once ran the Tropicana Casino Resort and, before that, the Trump Taj Mahal, imported Mario Bazinet, French-Canadian producer, to create Moonshine Follies. Bazinet produced more than a half-dozen shows for the Trop, most of which received critical praise.
Atlantic City hasn’t seen this type of extended-run casino revues since the mid-1990s, when producer and former Broadway hoofer Roger Minami assembled more than a dozen shows for Merv Griffin when the show business tycoon owned Resorts.
What do you think about the casinos' new revue shows?
From the famous organ at Boardwalk Hall and the Atlantic City Pop Festival of 1969, to Boardwalk Empire era tales and KY & the Curb.
Boardwalk Follies, the new musical revue at the Hilton, opens with a nod to the hot decade in Atlantic City these days, the 1920s, with a traditional Boardwalk rolling chair and a song that harkens all the way back to 1914, “By the Beautiful Sea.”
They’re thinking outside the box and inside the Beltway at the Atlantic City Hilton this summer.
Resorts has announced that it will be presenting Moonshine Follies, a show designed to provide hot fun in the wintertime. The show opens in the Superstar Theater on Sunday, Feb. 20 and will run until April 17.
It has been several years since Boardwalk Hall hosted a production by Cirque du Soleil. The critically acclaimed Cirque du Soleil production Alegría will arrive at Boardwalk Hall from April 6-10 for eight performances. Advance discounted tickets for Alegría are available now online exclusively to Cirque Club members through Dec. 5. Cirque Club membership is free and benefits include access to advance tickets, special offers and exclusive behind the scenes information. To join, go to the Cirque Web site. Tickets for the general public will be available starting Dec. 6 at the Cirque Web site, all Ticketmaster outlets or by calling Ticketmaster, 1-800-736-1420. Alegría has entertained more than 10 million people worldwide since its world premiere in Montreal in 1994. In May 2009. Tickets range for adults $35 to $110; children (12 & under) from $28 to $90; military, seniors and students from $30.10 to $100. Through Dec. 5 only, special discounts on tickets are available online to Cirque Club members. The show will be presented on Wednesday, April 6 at 7:30pm; Thursday, April 7 at 7:30pm; Friday, April 8 at 3:30pm and 7:30pm; Saturday, April 9 at 3:30pm and 7:30pm and Sunday, April 10 at 1pm and 5pm....
'Cirque Dreams: Jungle Fantasy' provides true family fun in a casino setting for a more than reasonable price