Cirque Dreams stars Andrey Moraru, Nataliya Tsytko, Devid Tsytko, and Vyacheslav Tsytko
(© Christine Steiner)
Cirque Dreams stars Andrey Moraru, Nataliya Tsytko,
Devid Tsytko, and Vyacheslav Tsytko
(© Christine Steiner)
Atlantic City isn't the resort of yesteryear. Today, the former home of the Miss America pageant has plenty of other attractions than a periodic influx of pretty girls and some sandy beaches -- namely its casinos, many of which are now offering a variety of entertainment options in addition to non-stop gambling and first-class dining.

"Operators here do a great job with entertainment," says Steve Gietka, vice president of entertainment for Trump Entertainment Resorts. "As gaming becomes available in nearby areas, amenities such as strong entertainment and nightclubs open into the wee hours have become increasingly important to consumers. Plus, there's entertainment here that the whole family can attend, especially during the summer."

Take Cirque Dreams: Jungle Fantasy, the latest touring show by creator Neil Goldberg, which plays to an average of 5,000 customers weekly in the Taj Mahal's 1,300-seat Xanadu Theatre. Goldberg aptly describes the show -- which had a brief Broadway run in 2008 -- as "an action-packed adventure stretching the imagination and bringing seemingly impossible feats to the stage."

The proscenium-bound show has an original score with tunes sung by "Mother Nature" (aka Amanda Restivo) along with over two dozen world-class aerialists, acrobats, jugglers, and contortionists -- not to mention dazzling costumes and creative choreography. Among the standout performers are recently-arrived muscleman Siarhei Kuzniatsou, a young Russian in a Tarzan-like loincloth who soars on silk straps after erotically drenching himself in a jungle pond, and Ukraine's 12-year-old daring acrobat Devid Tsytko, who performs with his family. Goldberg consistently seeks the finest performers from circus arts schools in Eastern Europe and Russia, whether he travels there in person or watches audition tapes on DVD, for his shows.

V, The Ultimate Variety Show, which arrived at Trump Plaza direct from Vegas' Planet Hollywood V Theatre, easily lives up to its name. Among its headliners are comic/juggler Michael Holly, an 18-year veteran of showroom spectaculars; award-winning illusionist Jason Byrne, who performs with a menagerie of colorful doves and parrots; ventriloquist Ronn Lucas; and quick-change artists Pasha and Aliona. The show is produced by David Saxe, the son of a former Vegas showgirl who learned a great deal from the time he spent in Sin City. "I'm fortunate to be from the entertainment capital of the world where they have been perfecting their craft for years," he says.

Among the most popular performers in town is internationally renowned magician Kozak, who is now in his second year of entertaining crowds at the Tropicana. "Magic is a blend of art, science, philosophy, theology and psychology," he says. "I bring all that to the stage, hopefully, with razor-sharp wit and lots of audience interaction."

Straight, No Chaser
Straight, No Chaser
Other acts currently on view in Atlantic City -- some only for a short time -- include the popular male a cappella group, Straight, No Chaser; Brett Daniels, who deftly combines slight-of-hand and large-scale illusions; and Hypnosterical, featuring comic hypnotist Joe Boccuti.

Meanwhile, one of Atlantic City's flashiest hotels, The Borgata -- which is not located directly off the Boardwalk - has become well-known for bringing in top-drawer acts to its showrooms. Upcoming appearances include Bill Cosby (August 28), Crosby, Stills & Nash (August 29), Jackson Browne (September 4-5), Elaine Paige (September 25), Jerry Seinfeld (October 2), Howie Mandel (October 2), Bob Saget (October 9), Mary J. Blige (October 9), and Dennis Miller (October 15).

The Taj Mahal's Mark Etess Arena also plays host to some of the country's biggest music stars; upcoming acts there include Stevie Nicks (August 27), Jonas Brothers (August 28), Donna Summer (September 4), Shakira (September 18), Engelbert Humperdinck (September 24-25), and Marc Anthony (October 1).

In addition, Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall remains of one of the country's top concert venues, having recently hosted Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, and Barry Manilow in separate engagements. Up next is the world-famous rock group Aerosmith, who will perform there on August 28.

As Gierka notes, all this entertainment in one small city is in service of one common goal: "It's our job to provide that something extra to draw reluctant customers here and get regulars back," he says. "The more value you give, the less reluctant customers are to come."