Deborah Gibson’s three-week run at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, N.J., has been on my calendar for months, so I am overjoyed when my night finally arrives. (As a kid, I was a member of DGIF — the Debbie Gibson International Fan Club. She was a huge inspiration!)
Prince Charming and I trek down to the casino, and greet Deborah backstage before her Pop Goes Broadway performance. She insists I come back again after the show!
During the high-energy spectacle of show tunes and pop hits, Deborah delights with audience participation and lively conversation. We are sitting a few rows from the stage, so it’s a close call every time they look for volunteers. (Ah!) I’m in good company. The guy beside me is holding an “Electric Youth” sign and the girl next to us went to Calhoun High School with Deborah.
“This is my dream come true in terms of combining all my pop hits with all of my highlights of my Broadway career,” Deborah, 37, tells me. “In the audience, there’s really everyone from 8-80. They’re children of the ’80s and people in their eighties. For the older people who probably don’t know my pop career, they get all the familiar Broadway songs. And the people who come here get the Broadway songs plus the more current burlesquey hot numbers from Cabaret and Chicago.”
What’s her favorite thing to do in Atlantic City?
“Just being near the water and walking near the water has been my favorite thing,” she tells me. “My room is literally on top of the water. I feel like I’m on a cruise ship when I look out the window.”
Her dancer from 20 years ago, Buddy Casimano, joins her in this elaborate stage production. What happened to the famous black hats? She has hundreds — thousands — in storage.
“Ryan Seacrest’s sister caught my hat,” Deborah tells me. “I met her once with him, and she was like ‘Oh my God, I caught your hat at your concert in a 20,000 seat arena.’ Isn’t that funny? There are probably 100 people floating around with one of my black hats.”
Most prized these days is the cap given to her by her 90-year-old uncle Joe.
“He recently gave me his real, old-school cab driver newsboy cap,” she says. “He’s worn it every day of his life. All of my other old relatives are like ‘Joe, are you sure you want to part with this?’ He’s like ‘yeah, I want Deborah to have it.’ That’s probably now my most special hat. They live pretty close to Atlantic City. Grandpa was one of 13, and all the generations are getting on a bus and coming to the show soon. [laughs] They come to see everything I do. They come to New York to see me on Broadway. It’s amazing.”
After the show, we wait at the door and fans ask if I’m Deborah’s sister. (Wow! What a compliment.) We nosh on cheese-and-crackers and sip Pinot Grigio with her momager Diane and business partner Jimmy Van Patten (son of Dick – they’re working on a musical together!) as Deborah greets well-wishers. She returns for conversation and good times before our night ends with hugs. I feel like the luckiest person in the world.
Catch Deborah performing Pop Goes Broadway at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City through May 24.