THANKS TO its domination of the Las Vegas market, the Cirque du Soleil organization is pretty much synonymous with the multi-media extravaganza that combines eye-popping costuming, music and astonishing feats of balancing, strength and physical dexterity.

But Atlantic City is also a player in that game, thanks to impresario Neil Goldberg, who has made his series of "Cirque Dreams" presentations an integral part of Trump Plaza's entertainment strategy. His latest effort is "Cirque Dreams Holidaze," a Yule-themed program that came to the Plaza after a two-week engagement at the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn.

"I was really fortunate for the last four years here at Trump that I was able to launch a lot of creative visions," said Goldberg, 53, who came to show business via the fashion and special events industries. "I've been able to use the Trump organization as a creative [spring board]."

To date, Goldberg's most successful project has been "Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy," which he debuted at the Plaza. After a boffo summer 2006 run on the Boardwalk, Goldberg took the extravaganza to Broadway. A four-month national tour kicked off Wednesday in Norfolk, Va.

According to Goldberg, the Plaza's hosting of "Jungle Fantasy" was the creative turning point for him.

"That's when I started trying to Americanize [the Cirque concept]. Before, there was an expectation that a show with the word 'cirque' in it needed to have this avant garde New Age, European, I-don't-necessarily-understand-it thing.

"It was 'Jungle' where I really took the point of view . . . let's sing the words in English, let's try to tell a little bit of a story, let's form a comparison between what the acrobats do and what the theme of the story is."

For "Holidaze," a fantasy in which holiday ornaments come to life to perform acrobatic, balancing, juggling and aerial turns, Goldberg decided to stay away as much as possible from the typical casino holiday revue blueprint. With the exception of a few familiar ditties (including "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Jingle Bell Rock"), the score is original, much of it sung by three onstage vocalists.

Among the show's highlights are two acrobatic routines featuring young boys, as well as some spectacular costuming and lighting effects.

While the "Cirque" template springs from a European entertainment tradition, it has obviously struck a chord with American audiences for whom the circus has historically meant the three-ring variety with clowns and trained animals. So why has this format become so popular?

"Human nature," Goldberg reasoned, "is that you're fascinated by what you don't know. And they believe people can do things that are impossible to other people. They're fascinated by what would make somebody wake up one day and decide they want to bend their legs behind their head." *

Trump Plaza, Boardwalk at Mississippi Avenue, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursdays, 9 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday. $35 and $25, 800-736-1420, www.ticketmaster.com.

Run, Santa, run!

It'll be a regular Kris Kringle-palooza tomorrow at the Tropicana as numerous folks in St. Nick drag participate in the casino's first "Running of the Santas" event.

Those wishing to join the ho-ho-hoing throng should report to Firewaters in the Marketplace complex between 4 and 5 p.m. to register and get, umm, jolly for the bash.

At 5 p.m., things move to Hooters where, at 6, the restaurant's waitresses will lead the actual run, which will take place simultaneously in 25 other cities. The festivities continue at A Dam Good Sports Bar in the Quarter, where, at 8:30, a "Sexiest Santa" contest will be held.

Things wrap up with after-parties at Planet Rose Karaoke Bar and the Providence disco.

Tickets for the event are $10; a portion of the proceeds from sales of ticket and a special lemonade-and-vodka drink are earmarked for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer.

For more info, go to www.runningofthesantas.com.*

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