Red-hot comic Matt Rife at Ocean AC, “The Hook” residency at Caesars, top summer casino show lineup
Summertime is prime time for the region’s gambling dens, and that is certainly reflected in the entertainment being offered. The next three months or so feature a non-stop smorgasbord of contemporary and vintage headliners as well as resident production shows.
Below is a (chronological) look at some of the most notable bookings:
Euphoria (June 18-Nov. 19) Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.
AyCee-based impresario Allen Valentine has spent the past several years producing nostalgia-focused musical revues at Hard Rock, but this summer (and extending well into the fall), he’s reviving a format that’s been MIA for quite some time: The classic variety show. Euphoria will offer a potpourri of music, dance, comedy and magic, hand-balancing, plate-spinning and similar acts.
The Hook (opens June 30; Caesars Atlantic City).
One of the things that has made Las Vegas such a must-visit destination is the collection of resident production shows, including various Cirque du Soliel extravaganzas, that can only be seen in the Nevada desert. Now, Atlantic City has its first such permanent attraction.
The Hook is both the name of the original production that will be featured as well as the facility itself (which incorporates the existing part of the old Warner Theater, a 1920s movie palace).
Little has been revealed about the show’s content, but we know that it will showcase a troupe of international comics and circus acts. And because it’s from Spiegelworld, the company that is responsible for several long-running Vegas programs including the wonderfully wacky Absinthe at Caesars Palace, it should be incredibly creative, side-splittingly hilarious and definitely for the over-21 crowd.
The Hook is also a potential game-changer: One can assume that if it succeeds, other AyCee casinos will follow suit and invest in their own one-of-a-kind presentations.
Besides the 400-seat state-of-the-art theater, the complex also includes Superfrico, which Spiegelworld describes as a “psychedelic Italian restaurant” and four cocktail bars.
Anthony Jeselnik (July 7; Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa).
Given the current “cancel culture” it’s a near-miracle that Jeselnik still has a career: His stock-in-trade is making jokes about everything that polite society insists should never be the subject of a comedic routine (e.g. death, Alzheimer’s disease, abortion). But here’s the catch: Jeselnik’s material is unfailingly intelligent and the punch lines, which almost never land where you expect, will have you laughing in spite of yourself. Add to that a flawless, deadpan-like delivery, and you have a standup artist with few, if any, peers.
Ice Cube (July 7; Ocean Casino Resort.
The phrase “original gangsta” is thrown around freely in the hip-hop world, but it certainly applies to Ice Cube, who helped shape rap music and culture as a member of the groundbreaking, late-‘80s collective N.W.A. Beyond that, he’s racked up impressive credits as a record producer and actor (“Boyz ‘n the Hood.” “Friday,” “Ride Along”).
Peter Frampton (July 16; Hard Rock).
One of the biggest pop-rock acts of the 1970s, Frampton will hit the Rock as part of a farewell tour. His imminent retirement is the result of a degenerative muscle condition called Inclusion-Body Myositis, so this will likely be the last chance to catch him locally.
Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone (July 29; Golden Nugget Atlantic City).
During the “British Invasion” of the mid-1960s, only The Beatles were a bigger recording act than Herman’s Hermits. Today, original lead singer Peter Noone remains a marvelous entertainer armed with a trunk-load of enduring songs including “I’m Henry the Eighth,” “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” and “There’s A Kind of Hush.”
John Fogerty (Aug. 18; Caesars).
The singer-songwriter’s classic-rock resume includes writing and singing a slew of iconic classic-rock tunes while leading Creedence Clearwater Revival in the late-1960s and early-‘70s (among them “Proud Mary,” “Down On the River” and “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”), and a solo career that has kept him in the spotlight for decades.
Matt Rife (Aug. 18 and 19; Ocean Casino Resort).
This young comedian is without a doubt the biggest unknown star in all of show business. Although he’s yet to be discovered by the mainstream, Rife is an absolute Internet phenomenon; his two YouTube standup specials, 2021’s “Only Fans” and April’s “Matthew Steven Rife” garnered millions of views. On TikTok, his viewership is in the billions.
That he can book four shows at any casino is impressive. That he’s booked them at Ocean’s 5,500-seat Ovation Hall is nothing less than remarkable—especially considering he was scheduled to do three sold-out shows at Bensalem Pa.’s Parx Casino and two at Wind Creek in Bethlehem, Pa. this week.
Sergio Mendes (Aug. 18; Rivers Casino Philadelphia).
The legendary, 82-year-old Brazilian pianist/composer/arranger is best known for being one of the musicians who helped popularize bassa nova in the U.S., primarily through his popular band, Brasil ’66.
Wayne Newton (Aug. 26; Parx).
Before nine-figure Cirque du Soleil extravaganzas and residencies by billion-view pop stars took over the Vegas entertainment scene, the 81-year-old Newton was the town’s star of stars. His Parx gig should provide a taste of what used to be in casino showrooms.