'Cirque Dreams' producer returns to AyCee for another world premiere

Posted: August 02, 2013

NEIL GOLDBERG doesn't need to be coaxed to "do AC." He's been doing it for 20 years, and can't imagine how his career would have evolved had he not.

"I did my first show, 'Cirque Ingénue,' at the Hilton [now Atlantic Club] in 1993. Atlantic City has been a great catapulting market for my brand and me personally," offered the veteran impresario whose latest effort, "Cirque Dreams Revealed," runs through Sept. 22 at Revel Casino-Hotel.

Like several other productions before it - including "Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy," which remains the only "Cirque"-style show to ever run on Broadway - "Revealed" was written specifically for an Atlantic City gaming hall. According to the South Florida-based Goldberg, AyCee audiences are as valuable for their knowledge and sophistication as they are for the money they spend on tickets.

"In the tri-state area, you have a lot of seasoned, experiential-theatergoers," he said, using the term that describes programs such as his. "They see so much.

"Today, with YouTube and social networking, there is very little you don't have access to. And what I've always found about Atlantic City audiences, because they are so seasoned, their reactions really give me the opportunity to step back and tweak and figure out what works and what doesn't work.

"All the feedback I get from critics or the audience, I take to heart, and we rework things and put it out there. It's what helped me get to Broadway, it's what helped me get to the Kennedy Center [in Washington, D.C.], and so I can't complain."

Like all of Goldberg's presentations, "Cirque Dreams Revealed" showcases an international roster of jugglers, contortionists, acrobats, aerialists and the like, who provide nonstop thrills and chills with you-gotta-see-em-to-believe-'em stunts that appear to defy the laws of human physiology. But unlike past programs, "Revealed" is conducted without Goldberg's signature psychedelic visual effects and backdrops. That is a function of The Social, the casino-side venue in which the show is being performed. The room's layout dictates "Revealed" be performed in-the-round, which means there is no proscenium stage upon which scenery can be placed.

While The Social takes away, in that respect, it gives as well. Seldom have audience and performers been in such close proximity for this kind of program.

"I tell audiences this genre has been around for so long, and if you think you've seen it all, what's different about 'Cirque Dreams Revealed' is that you're going to see something you've never seen before," Goldberg said.

"You can see the focus of the performers, and their muscle tone and their facial expressions, and that's what's so exciting about being so close up."

There's another difference in this show as well. Because Revel prohibits those younger than 21 from stepping foot on the casino floor - the only way to access The Social - admission to "Cirque Dreams Revealed" is limited to those of legal gambling age.

This presentation comes just a month after an aerialist in the Las Vegas production of Cirque du Soleil's "Ka" died after she accidentally fell to her death during a performance. According to Goldberg, the tragic occurrence has not caused him to eliminate such acts from his shows.

"Obviously, in this industry, we're always paying attention to the safety of all aerial acts because it's part of what audiences come to see in these shows," he said. "We've always double-checked, now we triple-check. We always take pause when something like this happens; the artists are concerned. But we have professional riggers and the artists check their own rigging.

"We want to push the envelope. We want the audience to look up in the air, but we have to be extra-cautious and safe.

"It was a very sad accident, but you also have to take into consideration this was a production number [during which the woman died] in a giant show with a multimillion-dollar rigging apparatus. We're working with artists whose rigging is theirs. We don't do group numbers with all these people up in the air."

Goldberg acknowledged the "Cirque" format is hardly the novelty it once was. So, he was asked, what is it about these kinds of shows that keep people coming back for more?

"We can refer to what's going with reality TV shows," he reasoned. "Look at 'America's Got Talent' and 'The Voice' and all the entertainment competitions. I just think people love to see what the human mind can do with the human body."

Revel Casino-Hotel, 500 Boardwalk, 5 and 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, $25, 800-736-1420, ticketmaster.com.

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