’Tis the season for casino holiday productions; Harrah’s Atlantic City adds ARCADE games to the fun

The holiday fare includes everything from international superstars to Cirque du Soleil-inspired extravaganzas to an interactive comedy-murder mystery based on 'A Christmas Carol.'
Cirque du Soleil's holiday-themed Cirque Musica is at Tropicana.
Cirque du Soleil's holiday-themed Cirque Musica is at Tropicana.www.cirquemusica.com

While it may seem like July 4 was only about a week-and-a-half ago, the we are officially into the 2023 holiday season. As such, it’s the time of year when the sights and sounds of said season inside Atlantic City’s gaming halls are as ubiquitous as the beeps, bloops and burps of slot machines.

So, in the spirit of this time of year, here’s a rundown of the Yuletide offerings in AyCee’s gambling dens (tickets for all shows are available at www.ticketmaster.com except where noted):

‘Christmas In the Air’ (Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa; through Dec. 24)

This musicale is apparently inspired by the annual Radio City Music Hall holiday extravaganza—complete with what is described as “a cast of high-kicking Rockettes-style dancers performing alongside magical holiday characters.”

‘Doo Wop Christmas’ starring The Doo Wop Project (Tropicana Atlantic City; Nov. 30)

The six-member Doo Wop Project will serve up a slew of seasonal numbers in classic 1950s harmony style. Expect to hear the likes of The Drifters’ iconic version of “White Christmas,” The Temptations’ take on “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and  Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons’ rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

‘Santa’s Christmas Wonderland’ (Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City; Dec. 7-10)

This is another Radio City Music Hall-inspired revuesical boasting colorful staging, high-kicking choreography and a sleigh-full of beloved holiday numbers.

Il Divo: ‘A New Day Holiday Tour’ (Ocean; Dec. 9)

The internationally acclaimed quartet of classically based singers checks into Ocean for an evening of seasonal songs.

‘Holiday Dreams Cirque’(Golden Nugget Atlantic City; Dec. 9)

Holiday festivities are given the “Cirque” treatment, which means plenty of you-gotta-see-‘em-to-believe-‘em acrobats, aerialists and the like to go along with familiar melodies.

‘A Dickens Of A Murder’ (Resorts; Dec. 9)

The latest in Resorts’ ongoing series of interactive murder-mystery presentations has audience members solving a homicide involving the characters from Charles’ Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

Tickets: www.resortsac.com

Soultown to Motown Holiday Show featuring the Sensation Soul Cruisers (Live! Casino Hotel Philadelphia; Dec. 10)

One of the region’s top “party” bands puts a soulful, funky spin on holiday favorites. Tickets: www.axs.com.

Cirque Musica: Holiday Wonderland’ (Tropicana; Dec. 9 and 10)

The second of two Cirque do Soleil-inspired holiday celebrations.

Lindsey Stirling—‘Snow Waltz Tour’ (Caesars; Dec. 15)

The social-media luminary combines her talents as a violinist, dancer and aerialist for a somewhat different kind of holiday celebration, but one which includes season-appropriate tuneage.

Atlantic City Ballet Presents ‘The Nutcracker’ (Caesars, Dec. 16)

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a production of he ballet based on Tchaikovsky’s timeless piece about a young girl’s journey into a Christmas gift-inspired fantasy world.

The Modern Gentlemen: ‘You Make It Feel Like Christmas (Resorts; Dec. 16) 

An evening of holiday favorites performed by the vocal quartet.

‘My Big Gay Italian Christmas (Ocean; Dec. 16)

The 20th anniversary edition of this comedic, holiday-themed cult favorite from three-time Daytime Emmy Award winner Anthony Wilkinson (for his directing work on the ABC soaper, One Life to Live) examines, among other things, sexual identity and family dynamics. Fun fact: It’s Ocean’s first theatrical booking.

Fun and games at Harrah’s Resort

Historically speaking, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City hasn’t been particularly concerned with attracting the under-21 crowd and as such, the oldest of the city’s three bayside casinos has hewed pretty rigidly to its mission of being an adult playpen.

But that was then and this is now. And now, Harrah’s is the home of The ARCADE, a 5,300-square-foot rec room boasting 61 electronic games and the type of sensory-overload atmosphere that kids love, thanks to an excess of blinking neon and high –volume sound effects. It had a “soft” opening Nov. 1, with the official debut   taking place nine days later.

The games themselves run the gamut from classic Boardwalk favorites like Skee-Ball, air hockey and ring toss to “Rabbids,” and other stations that utilize cutting-edge virtual-reality technology. Actually, even the ostensibly low-tech games (e.g. basketball and the above-named vintage activities) are digital in nature.

All the games are played using cashless, re-loadable players’ cards (credit cards and cash are accepted when buying credits). Instead of the traditional, old-school, raffle-style ducats awarded to those achieving various levels of success on the machines, points are accumulated on the magnetic cards—the same exact manner in which gamblers accumulate comp points on the casino floor.

According to Gregg Klein, the gaming hall’s senior vice-president and general manager, the property’s newfound focus on the family trade is a no-brainer, based on the kind of visitors it’s welcoming on an increasingly frequent basis.

Harrah’s, said Klein, “attracts a variety of guests, including families and dance, cheer, and athletic competition teams,” said Klein. “We knew that we needed more amenities to do a better job servicing these guests and ensuring that they have a great experience for all ages. The opening of [The ARCADE] is the next step in our plan.

“Next year there will be several other new openings designed to appeal to all of our guests. We are very excited that guests of all ages will now be able to have a fun experience staying and playing at Harrah’s.”

Harrah’s is hardly the first local gambling den to take the kiddie-fun plunge. In 1987, Showboat (which, as a non-casino complex, today is completely geared to families with its enormous Lucky Snake Arcade and equally massive Island Waterpark) opened as Showboat Casino Hotel & Bowling Center, while the defunct Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino housed both a Warner Brothers merchandise store and the Rainforest Café, which is still doing business on the site.

The town’s boldest casino-era attempt to target families occurred in 1988 when the then-7-year-old Tropicana Atlantic City was rebranded as TropWorld, which had as its theme turn-of-the-20th-century AyCee, and which boasted a multi-acre, indoor amusement park called Tivoli Pier.

By 1996, that experiment had failed and the complex once again became the adult-oriented Tropicana Atlantic City.

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