When they were first approached about producing “Jingle,” a holiday-themed show for Tropicana Atlantic City, Kevin Jeffrey and his performing partner, Lord Caruso — better know to audiences as Kevin and Caruso — figured it wouldn’t be a very heavy lift.
Having worked together for years as headline magicians and illusionists, starring in shows they produced from Las Vegas to Miami, Jeffrey and Caruso thought this would be an easy gig because most of the show already existed anyway — maybe it didn’t look quite like a holiday show, but that would be an easy remedy.
By taking a 10 to 15 minute hunk of their regular magic act, something they’re obviously intimately familiar with, and then adding some holiday trimmings to the routines, they would have the base for an original holiday show for the Trop, where Kevin and Caruso have regularly performed in their own summer magic shows.
The third production partner in the show, the world-renowned choreographer and producer Mistinguette, would create a few new holiday-flavored dance segments for the program, all of it wrapped around some holiday music to create original-looking routines.
“Yeah, we probably did think it was a little less challenging than it really was,” says Jeffrey, trying to suppress a laugh. “However, we’re lucky enough that our production team is really just Caruso, myself and also Mistinguette … who has produced over 500 shows, (including) her fair share of holiday shows. So to have her as part of our team in those beginning phases, I did find myself consulting with her a lot more than I would for our normal magic show. The wealth of information that she had ... is really what made the show have the look it does.”
“Jingle,” which will be presented on select dates and times in the Tropicana Showroom through Dec. 21, doesn’t miss many tricks in going right for the holiday heart of the audience. The cast of a dozen performers wear dazzling original costumes, most of which were hand-sewn by Caruso.
Audiences will be treated to music box ballerinas, dancing soldiers and a featured appearance by Lady Hellevi, an aerialist dancer and illusionist who does her best work high above the stage.
Plus, with Kevin and Caruso producing, expect to see about 15 minutes of magic and illusion, but nothing that will dominate the show so it steals or draws attention away from its holiday message.
“We’re not doing a whole lot of magic in this show because we really wanted to make it more of a family holiday show and not compete with the summer (magic) show we usually bring here,” Jeffrey says.
“The illusions we’ve chosen are definitely in theme with the show and some of them are a little more seasonal looking than the others. But in the context that we use them, it definitely fits the theme of what we’re doing. And that did require getting some new stuff, repackaging some old material, and then, of course, the wardrobe that we wear when we perform these illusions changes completely in this context.”
One of the more interesting challenges of producing a new holiday show each year is the music, Jeffrey admits. Sure, there are plenty of popular Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa songs to go around.
But ... are there really?
When you’re looking to fill anywhere from 75 to 90 minutes of show with one particular musical style — like holiday songs — the list of familiar Christmas carols and numbers from other faiths begins to shrink.
“We learned that (lesson) a few years back when we produced our first (holiday) show,” he says. “And there really are just a limited number of songs that people associate with (the holidays). And that was a surprise to me, because when we usually build our big magic show, there’s an unlimited inventory of music and it’s quite different when you do a holiday show. You definitely want to throw some mixes in there that feel new and give the show a fresh look. But ... it ends up being all those favorite classics that we known and love. It was really fun to mix the soundtrack to make sure we gave that all a new life (and) I think it turned out real well.”
“Jingle,” like the long line of holiday shows that have preceded it over the years, is pure and wholesome holiday entertainment for the family.
There’s no double-entendre holiday humor, no risqué dialogue or line-crossing costuming, nothing that would require some uncomfortable moments of adult explanation to curious kids during the ride home, Jeffrey says.
“It’s a very fun, song-and-dance holiday spectacular with incredible costumes that we hand-made ourselves, and it features all of your favorite holiday music, elaborate set pieces and some magic and illusions,” he adds. “It’s pure family entertainment.”