It’s not that Allen Valentine doesn’t subscribe to that whole “naughty or nice” theory during the holiday season.
But the veteran show producer probably wouldn’t mind seeing that expression changed by just three letters. He’d prefer to see people rewarded for being naughty and nice.
He can point to a precedent for that expression, too: his very popular “The Burlesque Show,” now entering its fifth year in Borgata’s Music Box. That’s where a holiday version of the sexy show will be presented 9 p.m. Monday to Sunday, Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, except for a 10 p.m. curtain on Saturday, Dec. 31.
“The Burlesque Show” usually runs from May through October. But for the last several years, the casino has brought the show back during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for audiences who didn’t catch it during the summer to see it during the week between (the year’s last two holidays),” Valentine says.
Using this year’s regular show as a frame, Valentine and his creative team have created two new holiday-themed production numbers for this year’s holiday version of the show. And they’ve dressed the stage with all the traditional trappings of the season.
“We’ve added a bunch of different spins on the holidays and burlesque,” he says. “We have new comedy sketches, which is a very big part of our show.”
Valentine draws on his long career as a headline magician in Atlantic City — plus experience producing shows in other casino markets — to know the little nuances that people expect to see in a casino production show.
Valentine won’t give away too many of the surprises that await audiences who catch the value-priced show next week. But two years ago, a burlesque dancer did a strip tease number on ice skates on an artificial ice rink on the stage. Last year, a snow machine created a mini-blizzard over the audience.
“This year, we’re doing a take on New Year’s Eve and champagne and (we have) massive champagne bubbles and bottles,” he teases. “It’s just a real tip of the cap to (New Year’s) since we’ll be there through New Year’s Day.”
Speaking of teasing, that’s precisely the mission of the hand-picked cast of modern-day burlesque performers Valentine has recruited from around the country and Canada.
The whole purpose of burlesque, he says, is to tease the audience using costumes and seductive choreography to make people think they’ve seen something “naughty” when they really haven’t.
So you think you’re about to see a girl strip all the way down, playing into that whole naughty and nice thing?
Think again. Not only would it be a violation of the state law that prohibits nudity in casino shows, but it would also violate the spirit of burlesque.
“The word ‘strip’ is kind of slang that the burlesque dancers use among themselves,” Valentine adds. “And it’s really kind of funny because it doesn’t describe what it is that they do.”
Yes, some of the women remove their clothing, but only to reveal skimpier outfits. It’s all in good taste and never crosses the line into R-rated territory.
Ever since “The Burlesque Show” first danced its way into Borgata four years ago, Valentine has insisted the show be a celebration of women, not an exploitation.
“I’m somewhat of a conservative guy,” he says. “When I started putting together the burlesque show (five years ago) and I started researching it, I felt the most important thing about this show is that it needed to be empowering for women.”
Besides, Valentine’s creative team would never let him get away with any form of female exploitation. That’s because most of them are women, and two are family: his wife and sister-in-law.
“Women who come to see the show love it and they tell us so,” says Valentine, who broke into Atlantic City casinos as a magician who once entertained and created shows for President-elect Donald Trump at his former Trump Plaza and Taj Mahal casinos.
While some of you are still thinking about what you want for Christmas, others have moved on…
Once the holiday version of “The Burlesque Show” closes, Valentine and crew won’t be taking much time off. They’ll have just four months to assemble a new version of the show so it’s ready to open its fifth year at Borgata in May.
“Part of what’s made us such a success with Borgata is that every year (the show) is 100 percent brand new,” he says. “Right now we’re starting to write the 2017 version. We do a complete reboot of the entire show. All new production numbers, comedy sketches and (we’ll) change up some of our talent.”