Atlantic City has sure seen its share of cirque shows, an artistic hybrid form of entertainment that is part circus, part freak show.
And while some of those shows have been performed by the premier cirque troupe - Cirque du Soleil - inside Boardwalk Hall for several touring shows, most of Atlantic City's experiences with cirque have come from Cirque Dreams, a Florida-based troupe that has been around for 20 years, offering many of its productions at the Trump Entertainment casinos here.
It's been a few years since Cirque Dreams has graced an Atlantic City stage, so Revel Casino-Hotel wisely teamed with producer Neil Goldberg this summer to offer a new show - "Cirque Dreams Revealed" - in hopes of pulling some valuable summer tourists into the casino for the first time.
Performed in The Social, Revel's signature nightclub, twice per day six days per week, "Revealed" is certainly different than any of the previous Cirque Dreams shows performed in the city. For starters, it's the troupe's first intimate, up-and-close cabaret revue. It's also the naughtiest and most risque cirque show they ever presented in Atlantic City, which on one hand makes sense since it is being performed in a bar, but on the other hand alienates families, which were a critical part of previous Cirque Dreams' successes in the city.
Unlike previous Cirque Dreams shows, "Revealed" is far less psychedelic, artistic and trippy. There are no clowns to offer some humor, and there are no vocalists offering surreal tunes.
All of the focus is on the acts, mostly acrobatic, as they are performed on a small stage in the center of The Social, an intimate setting that guarantees every seat will offer a spectacular view, with many of the seats right on top of the action.
Like previous Cirque Dreams shows, the costumes are mostly impressive, but this time around they are also revealing … as the title suggests. While there isn't any flat-out nudity, thongs are plentiful - even for male performers - and there are enough sexual overtones in the 60-minute show to make a trip with the kiddies quite uncomfortable.
With an international cast of 15 performers from nine countries, "Revealed" certainly packs a punch as far as how many acts are performed in such a small amount of time. However, as different as "Revealed" is, the show suffers from too much familiarity. Sure, there may be an act or two that breathes new life into the series, but overall, "Revealed," as Yogi Berra said, sometimes feels like deja vu all over again.
The show opens as Russian saxophonist Anna Pulysheva sets the cabaret tone for the night. The talented multi-instrumentalist serves as the night's quasi-host, entertaining the crowd with her moody horn sounds throughout the whole show.
The fun begins when Armenia's Simon Oganisyan, dressed as a cross between Liza Minnelli and Joel Gray in "Cabaret," shows his skills using Devil Stix, three stick-like objects he twists and twirls under his legs, behind his back and every which way, eventually stripping down to an Olympian wrestling thong. Not the strongest opening act, Oganisyan later returns on the Cyr Wheel, a familiar act that is much more entertaining than the Devil Stix, but very familiar.
Things got more impressive when Shenea Booth took the stage. The first-ever American two-time world champion in acrobatic gymnastics and USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame inductee showed remarkable strength. Muscular in a red bikini, Booth is part contortionist, part strong woman as she performed a semi-strip tease as she wowed audiences by holding herself completely up with one hand while spinning around.
Other impressive moments included Buyankhishig and Erdenesuvd Ganbaatar, a sister act from Mongolia who spin high above the audience in a sphere, offering dangerous stunts and cool poses at such a high speed it makes you dizzy just watching them; Russian Olga Gaeva's foot-juggling act features the thin blonde wearing see-through attire juggling cylinders and balancing an upright bass on one foot, perfect for those who may have foot fetishes; the trapeze duet of Canada's Guillaume Blaise and Italy's Delia Ceruti show impressive aerial skills and strength in a non-sexual act; and Buyankhishig Ganbaatar returned in a spinning beaded dress that was visually fabulous and very sexy.
Not as impressive: Italy's Steacy Girabaldi manipulates a ladder pretty well but adds little thrills, although she would be great if you were looking for someone to paint your house; Russia's Maria Bogdanova balanced crystal glasses but failed to win over the audience; Ukrainians Iurii Grynchuk and Viktoriia Kovalenko offered the boring, seemingly required aerial routine using fabric you see in every cirque show; and the routine by Petru Vasilachi, of Moldova, was downright laughable as the chiseled performer looked good while splashing around in a bathtub and eventually flew around in the air … like rubber ducky exotica meets "Flashdance."
Perhaps the most fun moment of the night came during the finale when Romania's Adriana and Valentin Marinescu performed some classic and new roller-skating tricks on the small Social stage.
Cirque Dreams Revealed is certainly a bargain. To see such a diverse group of athletes and entertainers do so many different things in such an intimate setting for just $25 is about as inexpensive as you can get for a night out.
While the sexiest cirque show to come to Atlantic City, you better be a fan of physically-fit, muscular specimens because there are no curves here. The Social may limit the show as far as the design and even as far as what types of acts can be offered, but the nightclub setting gives the show a Las Vegas, sexy feel that previous Cirque Dreams shows never had.
It might not be as artistically freaky as previous productions, but Cirque Dreams Revealed offers enough excitement, sexiness and creativity to plan a night out at Revel. Hopefully, it's the beginning of a partnership that will see more unique cirque shows inside Revel in the future.
Cirque Dreams Revealed
Held 5 and 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays through Sept. 22 in The Social at Revel Casino-Hotel. Tickets $25 available at ticketmaster.com