Charlie Prose has performed a Christmas show in Atlantic City for two decades
If you’ve ever seen a performance by local entertainer Charlie Prose, and quickly became a fan, there are a couple of quick assumptions that might be made. You’ve probably traveled extensively on tour buses that have played his best-selling videos and you know what they call the cardboard tube in a roll of toilet paper (It’s a tu-ta-roo, by the way. Well, if it’s decorated).
But more likely, you’ve made a tradition of spending a little of your holiday season with Prose, who has been performing a Christmas show in Atlantic City for more than 20 years with only two missed years. This Friday, Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 4-6) Prose brings the show to the Trump Plaza Theater.
“This is the 19th show we’ve done and I think that makes it the longest running Christmas show in Atlantic City history,” Prose says in a telephone interview from his Mays Landing home. “I’ve been very fortunate.”
Fortunate yes, but as with many things in Prose’s career, it was more about finding an entertainment niche nobody else could see. Prose, 64, had a thriving career in the shore area, playing frequently in Wildwood. When Atlantic City brought in casinos, Prose took his act to the then Playboy Casino, where he played for three years. And as the Christmas season approached each year, he would watch the casino city go dark for the month.
“Back then there was no entertainment in the city in December,” he says. “The casino executives just assumed you couldn’t draw people during the month and they would close the rooms — you know clean them, refurbish them — and wait for New Year’s. But I started getting messages from fans saying, ‘Charlie, why aren’t there any Christmas shows in Atlantic City?’
“So I put together a Christmas show,” Prose says. “Eventually we moved to Trump Plaza and they just put on such a wonderful show with such great production. Well, we’re still doing it all these years later, so I think we proved you can draw a crowd in December.”
It’s typical Prose, most notably when he mentions feedback from his fans. While an entertainer first, Prose has also proven to be a master at marketing himself and has always kept an extensive mailing list of fans (he calls them “friends”).
“Right now we have a database of 450,000 people,” he says. “That’s a wonderful luxury for a performer to have; to be able to reach out to your fans and ask them for feedback. I’m able to ask them, ‘OK, what do you want to see next?’”
That connection with the fans was enhanced early in his Atlantic City career when Prose began videotaping his performances and giving them to travel-tour buses to play on trips. He was inspired by the amount of bus traffic and tour buses Atlantic City saw in those days. It proved to be a brilliant marketing move.
“That put my name out there and all over the country,” he says. “Into the Midwest and Ohio and Indiana, Canada, really all over the place. It gave me national recognition.”
Even at his age, Prose still tours the country and plans a Midwest tour in the spring. He’s also an actor and will perform the lead role in Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite at the Hunterdon Hills Playhouse in Hampton, N.J., in the fall.
But Christmas still belongs to Atlantic City, where he performs a mixture of comedy and music.
“I’ve always been a variety performer,” Prose says. “People try to put you in a box. ‘Well, are you a singer, comedian, a dancer, whatever?’ I’ve always resisted that. I do a bit of everything in the act. It’s really a big party.”
While Prose plays piano and sings, along with a 13-piece orchestra, he’s always felt that comedy was a natural extension of his act.
“The way the world is right now, I think it’s more important to laugh and have comedy in our lives than ever,” he says. “I try to show people that there is comedy all around us and plenty of opportunities to find something to laugh about. One of the new things I’ve been doing is just reading from the classified ads. These are real ads and they come out in the paper everyday and some are just hysterical.”
Some examples Prose shares: “Exercise bike … barely used … call Chubby”; “Wedding dress … worn once in a mistake.”
Of course with a loyal fan base like Prose’s, there are a few classics he has to hit, the most famous being the tu-ta-roo (You know, the toilet roll tube).
“That came out of a bit I was doing on how much kids have today and how little it took to make us happy when we were kids,” he says. “That little cardboard tube was all we needed. I would turn it into a musical instrument and just strut around the house playing the tu-ta-roo [now the name makes sense]. It’s a favorite and people like that bit and a few others. I try to update the show each year, but people expect some things.”
So much so that Prose receives decorated tu-ta-roos from fans.
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