asiNotes: For entertainer Tony Pace, variety is the spice of his act:Hot and Latest News
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asiNotes: For entertainer Tony Pace, variety is the spice of his act

SOME PERFORMERS may take umbrage in being called a "throwback." Tony Pace revels in it.
Pace, who will have the distinction of being Atlantic City's first casino headliner of 2009 when he opens a five-night run Sunday at the Atlantic City Hilton, is a classic variety artist. His one-man, semi-autobiographical show, dubbed "Up On the Roof," combines straight singing, musical-comedy numbers, stand-up bits, audience-participation shtick and impressions to create a wonderfully entertaining package that recalls great entertainers of the mid-20th century such as Sammy Davis Jr. and Danny Kaye.

"It's like medicine," said the 48-year-old Massachusetts native, who now lives in Las Vegas with his wife and two teenagers. "Everyone's going into specialization. I'm the general practitioner."

According to Pace, who for years has been billed as "The Man With the Voice Who Just Happens to Be Funny," working from the variety blueprint is the best way for him to accomplish his onstage goals.

"I chose this format because the most important aspect for me is to have people forget their problems when they come to see me," he explained. "I want them to take the roller-coaster ride - laugh and cry and forget about everything outside those doors for an hour.

"I wouldn't be able to do that if I was just billed as a singer or comic or impressionist. In order to be the general practitioner, I have to know it all. I have to feel it all."

While hardly a household name, Pace is no stranger to AyCee audiences. A few years ago, he made a bid to become a Las Vegas-style resident headliner at the Screening Room, the jewel box of a theater on the 13th floor of Resorts Atlantic City.

He won glowing reviews and a loyal following during his six-month run, but permanent success there escaped him, primarily because Atlantic City's gaming industry has traditionally been based on repeat customers. Vegas depends heavily on less-frequent visitors, which creates a potentially larger market for shows of that kind. As a result, casino execs in Atlantic City prefer to book different acts rather than more permanent attractions.

While much of "Up On the Roof" at the Hilton might be familiar to those who caught Pace at Resorts, he insisted that it will not be the exact same show.

" 'Up On the Roof' at Resorts put out material without a real storyline to it," he explained. "Now it has a storyline. The evolution has come with time. As you do something over and over, you develop a polish to it. Some material has changed, but it's more in the structure."

It's not that Pace prefers to keep doing the same material, but in order to survive, a performer has to give the people what they want.

"We have people who come back because they remembered a certain song or [comedy bit]. They'll say to a friend, 'You've got to see this guy. He did . . . XYZ.' Like [the '60s hit] 'Cara Mia.' I'd like to move away from 'Cara Mia,' but there are people who come specifically to hear it."

Although the current economic situation is and is expected to continue taking its toll on the entertainment scene, Pace is optimistic about the new year. Topping his to-do list for 2009 is completing two long-in-the-works CDs of original music and getting them national distribution. He's also hoping to realize his dream of being at least a semiresident casino performer.

"What I'd really love to do is be in Atlantic City once a month for two nights the entire year. And do the same thing in Vegas," he said, adding that he'd also like to find a television gig.

Pace is also planning a series of shows staged in conjunction with the Freemasons that he describes as "an enrichment program for children."

The idea, he suggested, is to have as many balls in the air as possible. "I have always been diversified," he said. "Diversification keeps me in the public eye. And it takes the stress from putting all your eggs in one basket."

Atlantic City Hilton, Boardwalk at Boston Avenue, 7 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 2 p.m. Tuesday, $15, 800-736-1420,

Gotta 'Dance'

On Tuesday, the Tropicana raises the curtain on the year's first extended-run program, "Spirit of the Dance." The revue, a worldwide smash for the past decade, is heavy on traditional Irish choreography but also delves into such terpsichorean realms as flamenco and salsa. It runs through Feb. 19. *
Tropicana, Boardwalk at Brighton Avenue, 8 p.m. Monday, 3:30 and 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 9 p.m. Saturday, 3:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday, $25, 800-736-1420,

Chuck Darrow has covered Atlantic City and the casino industry for more than 20 years. Read his blog at Or e-mail him at


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