I saw Jen Kramer on Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us” a few years ago and made a mental note to try to see her in person. That happened this weekend during my Vegas trip, when I went to catch her at The Westgate, where she’s been doing a 5pm show four days a week since last May.
She doesn’t perform big, flashy illusions a la David Copperfield, Lance Burton, and Criss Angel — the kind where the assistants do most of the work. While Kramer has a couple of stage hands moving her modest props into place, she’s the one doing the magic in plain sight, from card tricks to mentalism to a quick Rubik’s cube solve and more.
I’ve never seen anyone smile throughout their act as much as Kramer does. She’s obviously thrilled to have her own show in Vegas, where she is currently the only female magic headliner in town.
Like Mac King — whose afternoon show at Harrah’s I’ve recommended for many years — Kramer is really good at crowd work, picking the right audience members to bring on stage, bantering well even when they don’t act predictably, and keeping things under control at all times. She also remembers (and does callbacks to) the names of everyone she interacts with during her 75 minutes, proof of the memory work she also incorporates into a couple of bits.
Kramer’s show is purposely very family friendly. The evening I was there, plenty of kids were in attendance, and she incorporated them into the act nicely, including a six-year-old girl who Kramer brought back from the verge of tears in a bit where the girl’s father’s iPhone was seemingly destroyed. That’s a tough thing to do, but Kramer handled it just right, and the expressions on the kid’s face were priceless.
Because it’s been more than a decade since a woman headlined a magic show in Vegas (the last was Scarlett, Princess Of Magic, in 2008) there’s a whole generation of girls who have probably never seen one, but they’re getting nice inspiration from watching Kramer. It would be nice to hear that they walk out begging their parents to buy them a deck of cards so they can practice some false shuffles and forces.
That’s not to say Kramer targets her show towards girls and women. To the contrary, she doesn’t even mention gender on stage, or promote herself that way, unlike predecessors like Scarlett or Melinda, who billed herself as The First Lady Of Magic. Kramer’s show is enjoyable regardless of how you identify.
When I talked to her after the show, I told Kramer something that magicians rarely hear: her show is very well written and really smart, especially one bit about puzzle pieces inside a frame that she turns into a lesson on pushing your own boundaries.
A good value — even with the nearly 50% fees and taxes tacked on — tickets for The Magic Of Jen Kramer will only set you back $31. She had a full house at the show I attended (her 127th, she said), and I hope she keeps bringing them in. I recommend it.