‘Euphoria’ at Hard Rock Atlantic City revives the classic casino variety show
Once upon a time in Atlantic City, you couldn’t throw a pair of dice without hitting an old-school-style variety show. These were 75-to-90-minute programs that served up a potpourri of entertainers, from singers, comics and dancers to magicians, acrobats and mimes. One regular on the AyCee scene in the 1990s was the late Denny Dent, the “rock & roll artist” whose astonishing, one-of-a-kind act consisted of him painting portraits of (mostly dead) rock stars using multiple brushes (in both hands) in a most unorthodox manner.
Sometimes, these presentations were headlined by actual big-time stars, as with Sherman Hemsley & Friends, which had a three-month run in 2001 at the Claridge when it was a casino, and showcased the star of the popular sitcoms The Jeffersons and Amen.
But by the end of the 2000s, such offerings, while not completely gone, were severely curtailed. That’s because they were staged primarily as lures for the thousands of customers who daily arrived in town on casino-sponsored charter buses from the Philadelphia and New York/North Jersey regions. When, beginning in 2006, legalized casinos in Pennsylvania introduced those bus riders to “convenience gaming” closer to their homes, both the shows’ audiences and budgets to stage them pretty much evaporated from the Atlantic City show-biz landscape.
But the fun and wonder of the variety-show format is back as Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City hosts Euphoria in its Sound Waves theater every Sunday evening through Nov. 19.
One of three productions impresario Allen Valentine currently has on the boards (the others are The Burlesque Show at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and Disco Inferno at Resorts Casino Hotel), Euphoria is a classic variety offering.
In all, a half-dozen acts fill the 75-minute extravaganza, covering a wide range of show-business genres. All six are first-rate, but two are real standouts.
One is Mark Gindrick Simon, a wondrously gifted clown. His turns are “silent” in that he doesn’t speak during them, but there is nonetheless plenty of aural activity in his bits, as when he does a slapstick, lip-sync turn to the strains of “Singin’ In the Rain,” that takes silliness to virtuoso-level heights, and the segment in which he morphs into a human bagpipe (you read that correctly!).
Simon deals in the kind of comedy that is seldom seen on television or streaming-services, but which remains—in the hands of gifted folks like him—timeless, and, in this case, alone worth the price of admission.
Another standout attraction is the duo of Yunier & Diana, whose whirling-dervish roller-skating sequences—performed on a small platform—are firmly in the you-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it category.
The cast is rounded out by aerialist-contortionist Donna Carnow, the Balla Brothers, a hand-balancing duo, magician Michael Grasso and plate-spinner Keith Nelson. All acquit themselves with great aplomb.
Not to take anything away from the above entertainers, but ultimately, the most noteworthy aspect of Euphoria may very well be the impressively versatile eight-piece, onstage band that provides the program’s soundtrack. The unit’s presence goes against the decades-long tradition of having cast member in these kinds of presentations go through their paces to the sounds of “canned” (e.g. pre-recorded) musical tracks. What having live musicians—especially the caliber of those in this band—adds to the proceedings can’t be adequately conveyed by the written word. Suffice it to say that Valentine has forever sonically spoiled this audience member.
And as is always the case with Valentine’s productions, Euphoria is solidly aided and abetted behind the scenes by choreographer Jillian Reed’s slick dance schemes and the visually arresting costumes designed by the producer’s wife, Kristine.
Finally, it should be noted that while Euphoria is not necessarily unique, as both The Burlesque Show and The Hook at Caesars Atlantic City feature acts that are similar in nature to those herein. However, unlike those productions, Euphoria is family-friendly.
For tickets, click here.
Stargazing at Ocean
In case you missed it, a small army of A-plus-listers are due in Sept. 30 for a charity bash at Ocean Casino Resort.
The New York Post’s Page Six column was first to report that on Sept. 30, hip-hop overlord Jay-Z is hosting what promises to be one of the most star-studded gatherings of mega-celebs AyCee has seen in quite some time.
According to Page Six, guests will pay a $100,000 buy-in fee to participate in a blackjack tournament (those who merely wish to lurk will pay a $50,000 cover charge) and will get to rub elbows with the likes of Beyoncé (a.k.a. Mrs. Jay-Z), Kim Kardashian and Tom Brady. The festivities will be emceed by Kevin Hart.
The bash is being staged in support of the Reform Alliance, a non-profit, social-justice advocacy organization whose board of directors include, in addition to Jay-Z, such heavy hitters as rap giant Meek Mill, billionaire entrepreneur Michael Rubin (founder of the Fanatics athletic-apparel brand) and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.