Shows at Ocean, Harrah’s offers laughter, magic and a touch of classic rock; Tropicana launches Japanese restaurant Ossu
Summer is when Atlantic City casinos have traditionally scheduled entertainment offerings that go beyond the standard single-night headliner bookings. Among them are three attractions that together span a wide artistic (and demographic) spectrum. Individually, each has a lot to recommend it:
Magical mysterious doors
At Ocean, the musical revue every Sunday afternoon (until September 4) staged by the group known as Magical mysterious doors is by far the most surprising of the three productions. As it is a tribute to three of rock music’s most important and beloved bands –The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and the Doors– expectations were that the show would be split into three separate segments, each devoted to one of the bands, with an emphasis on ultra-faithful recreations of the material. To our delight, this is not the case.
Instead of following the tried-and-true plan of painstakingly recreating songs, the five-piece troupe crafted a program unique to the realm of the “tribute act”: the quintet interspersed with strong renditions of many of the bands’ most revered songs. with a wildly inventive concept: the blending of two ostensibly disparate songs musically and lyrically. For example, while the band is playing “Dancing Days” by Led Zeppelin, the lead singer Vinny De Renzis serves the lyrics to “Hello I Love You” by The Doors. Another example was the late segment which combined the chords of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and the lyrics of Zep’s “Stairway to Heaven”.
Sure, this mix-and-match approach is clever, but Magical Mystery Doors does it in just the right amount, so it doesn’t get old or predictable. And because the band’s set list plays hopscotch between the three bands rather than sticking to one artist at a time, the listener is kept in suspense, because you never know what’s coming next.
The effect is enhanced by the individual and collective talents of the ensemble, starting with DeRenzis and the keyboardist Jeff Tomrell, which designed the unusual MMD format. They are cleverly encouraged by the lead guitarist (and sometimes the lead singer) Brendan Marrobass player Greg Reigel (who also does some mandolin tricks) and drummer Mikey Intellisano. While handling all the songs in the 90-minute presentation with agility, players are at their best on Led Zeppelin’s hardware (which, musically speaking, is by far the hardest to navigate). The fact that all five musicians have plenty of rock star swagger completes a most satisfying and enjoyable ensemble.
‘Just Kidding’ with Vinnie Favorito
Until September 3, Ocean is also offering I laughfeaturing veteran comedian Vinnie Favorito.
Staging every Saturday at 8 p.m. in the HQ dance club (which becomes a nightclub again after the show), I laugh is a showcase for Favorito, a longtime Vegas attraction.
Each show begins with an opening act (there’s a different one every week). Then Favorito takes over and delivers a set that is not just an endless recital of scripted gags. Instead, he displays his almost uncanny ability to improvise or spontaneously create comedy via give and take with audience members.
There is no need to quote Favorito’s laugh lines. First, there would be too much context and background to describe here for the lines to make sense. And because it’s all based on feedback and spontaneous customer responses, no two shows are the same.
What all performances have in common is that they are decidedly adult in nature: the most politically correct and/or easily offended among us probably won’t find I laugh entertaining in any way, shape or form. But for everyone else, suffice it to say, the Boston native’s ability to constantly conjure up really funny lines is astounding, and that makes I laugh an interesting way to spend the first part of a Saturday evening.
“Masters of Illusion”
It wouldn’t be summer in Atlantic City without an extended magic show. This year’s entry is masters of illusion at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City.
Unlike so many wizarding parties of the past, masters of illusion, which runs until September 4, is a rather modest budget affair. But “no frills” doesn’t mean “no thrills”; the three acts presented offer an airy and entertaining program, suitable for families.
Each of the magicians works in different areas of their craft. Whereas Lowell shredder adds a healthy dose of goofy puns and prop comedy to his conjuring, Jonathan Pendragonthe work of is much more traditional and Dan Sperrywhich has a pretty creepy figure with its zombie-goth makeup and costume, gets a little more extreme (especially with a grumpy, but fairly effective one, involving dental floss, a giant Lifesaver candy, and ostensibly sliced flesh).
Between the three, almost every corner of the magical world is covered, including mind reading, card tricks, levitation, and the classic bisection of an assistant which is the classic definition of “illusion”.
masters of illusion It might not be a groundbreaking exhibit, but it sure is a lot of fun.
Ossu makes his Tropicana debut
Tropicana Atlantic City continued its rollout in 2022 of eight new dining outlets with the recent opening of Ossu Japanese Tavern, specializing in small plates, yakitori, sushi and sashimi.
This culinary concept is not new to the space: it was officially occupied by Okatshegreat boss Jose Garces‘outpost focused in the same way. While the menus for the two operations aren’t that different, there are a few significant physical changes.
Okatshe’s location was rigged as customers had to enter, Prohibition-era speakeasy style, through a small replica of a Japanese candy store. If you didn’t know there was a restaurant behind the store, you never would have found it. But Ossu’s entrance stands prominently on the edge of the casino floor.
And the current interior design, dominated by dark wood, is less sleek and modern, giving the space a more relaxed and informal vibe.
The offer includes 12 small plates (eg delicately flavored chicken wings, edamame, tuna poke bowl), 10 yakitori (bites on a skewer, the tenderloin is a must for carnivores!) and a rather large selection of sushi (traditional and specialty) and sashimi to satisfy the most demanding guests.
Perhaps most impressive is the adult drink list which has 48 – count ’em, 48 – Japanese whiskeys and 15 varieties of sake.
Prices are in line with more upscale casino restaurants, but the portions are generous enough and a recent meal there found all the items my table mate and I ordered to be fresh and tasty.
Ossu joins Wild Honey Smokehouse & Tavern at Trop. Still to come:
Hash House A Go Gothe popular national chain that’s famous for its “twisted farm food” and large breakfast menu.
The Royce Social Hallwhich is billed as a combination American brasserie and “adult recreation room” offering casual food to share as well as a variety of games and activities including ping pong, bowling and shuffleboard.
the Verdi: The third longest operating restaurant-casino in Atlantic City (after Caprice at Resorts Casino-Hotel and Nero’s Italian Steakhouse at Caesars Atlantic City) will move from his longtime tiny home in a somewhat hidden corner of the casino to a much larger space overlooking the beach and ocean that was more recently home to Garces’ olon.
The purple zebra daiquiri bar.
Gin Rickey’s, a lounge offering a “piano duels” format.
Hawthorne & Liege, a traditional lounge offering bespoke cocktails and a selection of fine wines.