With the opening of “Latin Quarter,” Revel Casino Resort can legitimately stake a claim as Atlantic City's most cutting-edge property.
That's because the show, which runs through Dec.1 at the mega-resort’s casino-side venue, The Social, flies directly in the face of current casino-entertainment philosophy in the beleaguered gaming capital.
Put simply, “Latin Quarter” is an old-school gambling den production show, the kind that was a staple of AyCee showrooms (when there really were showrooms and not theaters) from the late-1970s through the late 1990s or so.
“Latin Quarter,” which was inspired by the famed mid-20th century Manhattan nightclub owned by Barbara Walters’ father, Lou, is a throwback variety show complete with a comic emcee, some nifty specialty acts and even a feathered-and-sequined chorus line--maybe not in an over-the-top, Vegas-in-the-50s way, but feathered and sequined nonetheless; the last attraction to make that claim escapes our memory. And in an age when electronic music DJs, cynical, Comedy Central-propelled stand-up acts and classic-rock bands make up the bulk of the show biz landscape along the Boardwalk, such a program is downright subversive, not to mention incredibly hip.
So what’s up with the back-to-the-future strategy at Revel, of all places which, as recently as a year ago, was all about being incredibly sophisticated and avant-garde?
According to the guy responsible for programming the entertainment at the opulent, if still-struggling, mega-resort, it’s simply a matter of getting back to the basics of casino marketing.
“We changed direction this summer with the whole ‘Gamblers Wanted’ campaign,” explained Bernie Dillon, who made his bones in the 1980s and ‘90s as Donald Trump’s boxing guru back in the day when Trump Plaza was the Borgata of its time, and who, for the past decade, had been one of the folks who helped the Hard Rock Casino Hotel in Hollywood, Fla. establish itself a major show biz center.
“We targeted a completely different demographic than we had in the past. I was charged with coming up with fun entertainment for the 35-to-75-year [demographic] which is the mainstay of the casino industry today.
“We’re trying to be different. If we went along with every other place, I don’t think you would have seen as many people here tonight. We had 350 people sitting in this room tonight—during a Nor’easter,” he added during an interview following Thursday night’s performance.
To put the game plan into action, Dillon recruited veteran casino producer Allen Valentine, whose “The Burlesque Show” at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was the surprise hit of the summer season. While that revue recalled classic casino presentations, it was still aimed more at the hipsters who have discovered that particular form of entertainment, rather than older audiences.
“I went to Allen and said, ‘What can we do together?’ and he came up with ‘Latin Quarter,’” said Dillon.
As for the show itself, it’s a breezy, agreeable affair boasting several strong turns, most notably by Bob Blaque, an archery whiz (and “America’s Got Talent” alum) whose turn concludes with him shooting an apple perched on his own head, and Jose Mejias, whose balancing act may be the best of its kind ever seen in Atlantic City.
While we personally weren’t bowled over by comedian-emcee Joey Vega, the paying customers certainly seemed to have had their funny bones tickled by him. And the choreography performed by the 13 male and female dancers was uniformly impressive, particularly the flamenco sequence.
Here’s hoping “Latin Quarter” is not a one-off experiment, but the harbinger of things to come And considering the gaming industry is such a monkey-see, monkey-do realm, it’s not all that far-fetched to think the casino production show might once again be a staple down AyCee way.
Revel, 500 Boardwalk, 5 and 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2, 5 and 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (must be 21), $25, 800-736-1420, www.ticketmaster.com.
Straight from Charlie's mouth
Wonder what former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel thinks of his mid-summer firing? How about his opinion of the team's chances in 2014? Regardless of what you've ever wanted to ask the Phils' beloved former skipper, you have your chance tonight as Tropicana Atlantic City presents "Talkin' Baseball with Charlie Manuel."
Given Cholly's folksy ways and tendency toward malaprops, this could turn out to be one of the year's most entertaining evenings in or out of the casinos.
Show time is 7 p.m. Admission is $15. For tickets, call 800-736-1420, or go to www.ticketmaster.com.
Valley Forge spiffs up
A $2.8 million renovation of the Radisson Hotel at Valley Forge Casino-Resort has been completed.All 243 guest rooms have been upgraded with new lighting, bath tile, vanities, carpets, chairs, ottomans, luggage benches and drapes.“Our 243 brand new rooms embody the luxury that our guests have come to expect in the Valley,” bragged casino President and CEO Michael Bowman. “We’re a first-class establishment, and we constantly work to deliver the very best experience to each and every one of our guests."