Review Monday Night Magic 7/29/02
by Matthew Field
The temperature was 96 degrees in New York City as I approached the McGinn-Cazale Theatre on 76th Street and Broadway in Manhattan on July 29, 2002 . Thats the home of Monday Night Magic, which was celebrating its 250th performance of a different magic show every week. Yes, it was hot outside, but things were positively smokin inside as Jamy Ian Swiss played host to Bob Sheets, Jon Stetson, Puck and close-up performers Frank Brents, Michael Chaut, and Carl Mercurio.
Jamy Ian Swiss, Genii Magazine book reviewer and card expert was the genial master of ceremonies, and started things off with his Any Named Card to Wallet, in which what appears to be a throw-away gag turns into a mind-blowing mystery. During the evening, Jamy also performed an exquisite version of 3-Fly, the fingertip handling of the Coins Across done very openly as Jamy describes what it would be like if a magician could do real magic. This was real magic, indeed. He also performed his story-deck trick Diamond Jack, an original and very amusing presentation filled with puns both verbal and visual which kept the audiences attention throughout.
Baltimores Puck was a crowd pleaser as he elicited gasps and cries of Oh my God by producing silks, candles, a large number of doves, a silk fountain and, to close, a huge cockatoo. When the cockatoo flew out into the audience, you could hear cries of amazement magic in the flesh certainly has an impact that TV can not provide. Pucks finest moment, for me, was the vanish of milk from a newspaper cone, and the instant appearance of a dove from within. Puck looks great in his formal clothing and manner, and Im sure this was a highlight of the show for many in the audience.
Jon Stetson is a successful performer from Boston, working in trade shows and corporate events as well as in stage and close-up venues. His performance character is a wild and crazy guy in a red jacket, and Jon had a ton of original and funny gags to accompany his magic. Jon performed the Flaming Wallet with some hilarious patter, then he did the Tossed Out Deck with five spectators peeking cards as Jon named four of the selections (the spectators standing, then sitting as their cards were named). With one spectator remaining after Jon named four cards, he nailed the last card to receive an ovation. Jon then passed out books, including a dictionary, to six or seven spectators. Jon wrote a prediction and handed it to a spectator for safekeeping. After having various words selected in extremely fair ways, Jon named each word, leaving one spectator, who revealed her word. Looking at the prediction, it was indecipherable, something like 146L1. This referred to a page in the dictionary and the first word in the leftmost column, and that, indeed, was the word the spectator had chosen very impressive indeed.
During intermission, close-up is featured at Monday Night Magic with master magician Frank Brents and 20-year veteran Carl Mercurio, who is also a corporate and cruise ship magician, performing in the main theater while one of Monday Night Magics producers, Michael Chaut, held forth at the lobby close-up booth. I heard audience members talking about Michaels performance of the sponge balls which, I know, turns into a wristwatch steal and I returned to the theater after a conversation with some magicians who were in attendance to see Carl amaze his audience by naming the cards a spectator had cut off the deck and having another red-backed, signed selection mysteriously appear in a sealed blue-backed deck! This was most effective.
The evenings headliner was the great Bob Sheets, making a rare New York appearance (after his successful performances at the recent S.A.M. convention). Bob has worked in many different venues, including circus and side shows, as a bartender, street magician, trade show worker and more. He has a unique, likable and very nutty performing character, and youre never completely sure if the magic will work, but it always does.
After some shenanigans with a strung deck, Bob Sheets began with his version of the Homing Card., in which a fan of five black spot cards mistakenly contained a verboten red Queen. Although Bob threw away the Queen, it repeatedly and surprisingly returned. This was followed by an excellent routine with a rope which repeatedly cut itself in half, knots transposed between the ends and other confounding feats transpired, some using the excellent Tabary handlings, all of which were entertaining. Next, Bob invited no less than thirteen kids on stage to help him with the venerable Cups and Balls. In Bobs routine, the kids perform the magic which transforms this trick into something that is uniquely Sheets'.
As a finale, Bob invited a very cooperative spectator to help him with one of his trademark tricks, the Card Stab. A new deck was shuffled and the spectator walked through the audience to have four spectators select cards. The assisting spectator herself signed a selection which was returned to the deck. Bob had the other selections returned, the deck was shuffled and Bob was blindfolded. The deck was cut into three piles and Bob brought out a HUGE knife, almost a scimitar! He knocked over the three piles, stabbed around, and amazingly stabbed each selection. But the by-play in this, the humor with all the spectators, the rising expectations as the blindfolded magician thrust around with the huge knife blade well, this is what makes Bob Sheets a legend in magic, and I was so glad to have gotten the chance to see him in this great setting.
Many other magicians were in attendance, including Bob Torkova, Angelo Carbone, Steven Cohen, Richard Cohen, Simon Lovell, David Silly Billy Kaye, and Roger Dreyer. But the overwhelming majority in the audience were first-time attendees and, as I have noted before, this makes Monday Night Magic a unique place to see magic performed for regular folks.
In future weeks, Monday Night Magic, which is now in the beautiful McGinn/Cazale Theatre located at 2162 Broadway (at W. 76th Street), above the Promenade Theatre, will feature Torkova, Peter Samelson, David Oliver, Jamy Ian Swiss, Simon Lovell, knife thrower The Great Throwdini and others. You can get more information at www.MondayNightMagic.com or by calling the 24 Hour Hotline, (212) 615-6432.