During a holiday season, when pleasant tales of sugar plum fairies instead of sordid stories of sexual improprieties are dancing through people’s heads, is it really a good idea for an Atlantic City casino to present a holiday show that leans toward the sexy side of that whole naughty or nice thing?
Allen Valentine seems to think so. And so does the new management team now running Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.
For the fourth year, Borgata is bringing back the popular summertime attraction “The Burlesque Show” for a six-night, holiday-themed run beginning Tuesday, Dec. 26.
Valentine, the former magician-turned-producer who once created production shows for President Donald Trump’s Atlantic City casinos, doesn’t see a problem with his 2017 holiday version of “The Burlesque Show.”
“In the very beginning, when we started doing the show, it was important to me to make the show empowering for women,” Valentine says. “Surprisingly, between 60 and 70 percent of our audience are women. And they love it.”
Valentine says long before the nation became embroiled — some might say enraged — with tales of sexual misconduct from Capitol Hill to Hollywood and all points in between, he had a built-in filter in his production company to make sure he would never cross the line with “The Burlesque Show.”
His entire team consists of women.
“I produce the show with my wife, who designs the costumes and she’s in charge of casting. So we are very in tune to keep the show tasteful and elegant,” he says.
Crossing the line between sexy and salacious “certainly isn’t a concern for us.”
As he’s been in the past, Valentine is slightly cagey when it comes to describing the holiday version of “The Burlesque Show” and won’t give away too many secrets of what audiences can expect from this year’s version.
He did let it slip that a new performer will join the cast for the holiday run.
“She’s actually a stilt-walker and burlesque performer, which is something new for us,” he explains.
Last year, he brought in a pair of tap dancing burlesque artists who actually tapped out the countdown to the New Year and made the audience feel like they were in Times Square for the midnight ball drop.
The previous year, he brought in a synthetic ice rink and hired a performer from New York who may have been the first burlesque performer to ever perform a strip tease on ice skates.
There’ll be a plate-spinning specialty act for something a little different. Many of the production numbers in the show are from the most recent edition of “The Burlesque Show,” and this will be the last time audiences will see those numbers.
Right after New Year’s Day, Valentine and crew will begin a complete reboot of the show prior to its re-opening in May.
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Previous editions of the show have keyed more on New Year’s Eve than on Christmas, since the show opens the day after the holiday. But Valentine says this year’s show will have a wink and a nod to Santa’s big day.
“One of the numbers we’re doing is ‘Carol of the Bells,’ which is a full-on Christmas number,” Valentine says of the popular holiday tune.
Fans of the show won’t be disappointed when they see a familiar face on stage. Comedian Jeff Pirrami, who’s been the host of the show since its inception, returns for the Dec. 26 to 31 run in Borgata’s Music Box. All shows begin at 9 p.m. except for New Year’s Eve, when the curtain rises at 10 p.m.
Valentine wants audiences to understand there’s a big different between a burlesque show and a strip club. Actually, there’s no comparison at all.
Burlesque is best described as the art of the tease. For decades, the top burlesque performers were — and still are — the ones that didn’t reveal anything that could be considered lascivious.
The best burlesque artists are the ones who are so adept at their craft that they fool audiences into thinking they’ve seen something that should have remained covered. The late Sally Rand is perhaps the best example of a classic burlesque star.
Between her ostrich feather fan dance and her balloon bubble dance, audiences — mostly men during her prime years in the 1920s and ’30s — would have sworn they’d seen brief flashes of nudity.
But it was her skill at moving the fans and bubbles that created the illusion of it.
If Valentine can find burlesque artists who can measure up to Rand — or even come close — he’ll consider them for “The Burlesque Show.” It may sound complicated, but Valentine’s goal is really quite simple.
“I want to make the show unique, something you won’t see anywhere else,” he says.