A couple of months before a vacation in Las Vegas, I saw an item about an unnamed magician presenting an exclusive “invite-only” show at a secret venue. With reviews describing it as “cutting edge,” “a gem,” and “incredible,” I hoped it might be anywhere near as good as the remarkable exhibition I saw Asi Wind perform last December in New York (I wrote about him here), so I bought tickets.
I’ll cut right to the bottom line — “The Magician’s Study” isn’t very good. In fact, several elements were so terrible, I got angry.
For starters, when I showed up at the reception desk, I wasn’t allowed access until I said a secret phrase that was in the confirmation email I’d received earlier that day (which also revealed the secret location: NoMad Library at Park MGM). I’d forgotten about it, but opened my phone, found the phrase, said it out loud, and only then was given a wristband and told where to go. Considering I’d paid a pretty penny for admission, I wonder what would have happened if I’d deleted that info and couldn’t provide it on demand. Would they just keep my money without letting me in?
By the way, the magic words were, “The rabbit sent me.” Oh, I get it, like a throwback to the days when hokey magicians pulled rabbits out of hats. As if that wasn’t enough, when the show started, the magician entered wearing a rabbit’s head costume which made it impossible for us to understand what he was saying because of the echo caught by the microphone he was wearing. Not a good start.
You’ll notice I only refer to him as “the magician.” That’s because he never said his name.
After removing the rabbit’s head, he claimed we would witness illusions you couldn’t see anywhere outside of that room. He then proceeded to perform a series of tricks that pretty much every magician at every level has done for decades. He cut a female assistant in half. He made a card from the blue deck appear in the red deck. He made an audience member’s signed playing card appear inside a walnut inside an egg inside a lemon inside an orange.
Everything he did reminded me of Jerry Seinfeld’s old routine about why he hates magicians…
Speaking of audience members, of the two dozen or so people in the room (which actually was a very nice setting), I may have been the only one who was sober. Many of those whose inhibitions had been lowered by alcohol kept shouting things out during the show. Yes, there were interactive elements with people chosen to help out with one trick or another, but these idiots were straight out of a piece I wrote last month, entitled “It’s Not About You.” They felt their every utterance made things better when in fact they were doing exactly the opposite and distracting the rest of us.
Throughout the performance, quite a few of those same onlookers responded with amazement to everything that happened — as if they’d never seen anyone do magic before.
I’ll grant you that I’m a bit jaded because I’ve seen so many magicians, including greats like Penn & Teller, Mac King, Lance Burton, Ricky Jay, Eric Mead, Chris Korn, Jamy Ian Swiss, Max Maven, and my old friend James Randi.
But even if this was your first time seeing live magic, you should be able to discern the good from the bad. After all, if you went to see a singer for the first time and they sounded like Sanjaya Malakar or William Hung — or any of the other lousy “American Idol” contestants who get booted at the beginning of each season — you’d cringe, not applaud.
I continue to seek out new magic shows because I have so much respect for the craft. I know people who watch Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us,” then go to YouTube to see someone else explain how the tricks were done. I’ve never done that — or watched the “Masked Magician” revealing secrets on Fox in the late 1990s — because I want to be awed. At every magic show I attend, I still look for the “wonder” I experienced as a teenager in the 1970s the first time I saw Doug Henning on Broadway in “The Magic Show.”
The unnamed star of The Magician’s Study doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same paragraph as any of the above, yet somehow has the gall to charge more for his show than they ever have. So, consider this a consumer advisory. If you’re in Vegas and want to see a really good magic show, instead of falling for online hype for this below-average dreck, go see Penn & Teller. Or Jen Kramer. Or Mac King. You’ll spend less money, but get a lot more brilliant entertainment.
As for any spoilers contained in this piece, you’re welcome.