Review: Monday Night Magic

Monday
Night Magic
Jan 14, 2013 @ The Players Theatre,
New York City Created by Michael Chaut; Produced by Frank Brents,
Michael Chaut, Todd Robbins, Peter Samelson, & Jamy Ian
Swiss M.C.: Harrison Greenbaum; Performers: Ferdinando Buscema,
Chipper Lowell, and Jason Bishop

Monday Night MagicThis was my fourth visit to
Monday
Night Magic
.  I find the talent to be hit and miss,
however usually there is at least one performer worth the
trip.  The premise is generally the same each time.  A
Master of Ceremonies (usually one of the producers, and Todd
Robbins if you’re lucky…) begins with a welcome, performs a trick
of his own, then introduces the first two performers in the first
45 minute half.  There is an intermission, in which a close-up
performer entertains at the front of the stage while a second
performs at the street exit of the theater.  Back inside 15
minutes later, the M.C. performs another turn, before introducing
the final performer who gets the whole of the last half. It’s that
last performer who makes the show – if it’s not a particularly
strong performer (we’re looking at you, Jeff Moche),  no
stellar 15 minute turn early in the show can save it. The theater
is small – it seats just 200, with a single center aisle. 
That center aisle makes the load in & load out very
cumbersome.  Coupled with a single ticket booth and no ability
to print or mail tickets beforehand – and you’ve got yourself an
arrival nightmare.  As it was on this particular performance,
where a single person purchasing a ticket with credit card problems
led to a 15 minute delay, which ultimately delayed the show start
by half an hour.  That center aisle also makes the halftime
close-up performances difficult to watch.  All that said – we
are talking New York City, and the fact that the producers have
managed to find a venue every week with few breaks for 15 years,
and well – I’ll put up with the hassle for the opportunity. 
As do others; in my four visits, all but one has been a full
house.  Mostly males and presumed magic fans.  God bless
the few young guys who brought dates; the women’s distaste was
visible just behind their forced smiles. I must admit, walking in,
I hadn’t heard of any of that evening’s performers.  Strike
that, I was familiar with Chipper Lowell, but I have no
recollection from where. Harrison
Greenbaum
was out first as MC for the show. 
Wow.  Fantastic.  An Incredibly strong character. 
Hilarious.  He knows who and what he is and it works for
him.  He generally seemed to be having fun with the
audience.  He listened to the audience and was able to work in
lots of improvisation based on opportunities the in
audience responses.  And the magic was incredibly strong.
 In the second half, he performed a Price-Is-Right themed
mental epic with an incredible subtlety to avoid the final
force.  The theme justifies the prop, which I feel has always
looked out of place before.  And the old baby gag, brough
up-to-date and ending with a killer of a final prediction. 
Without the jokes these would be miracles.  With the jokes,
well – they don’t get the reaction they would otherwise because
folks are having a better time laughing than getting fried.  I
just read that he is the warm-up guy for Katie Couric.  I
suggest you see him now while you can – because as soon as he gets
big, I fear he’ll drop the magic. The first performer was Ferdinando Buscema.
An italian with a thick, but understandable accent.  He
performed gift magic or “experience magic” as he terms it.  It
began with a two simple hat tears for two children in the audience
(yes, there were surprisingly a few in the audience for the Monday
8:00 PM start). I believe there was a second trick in the middle,
which I can no longer remember. He ended with a thought-of movie
prediction. And ended, by handing the spectator a gift – which he
claimed might contain the thought-of-DVD, for her to open when she
got home.  A wonderful, and touching moment – which was ruined
seconds later when the spectator opened it at her seat – stopping
the show while she did so while every head in the audience strained
to see if it was, in fact correct.  Nevertheless, a great,
calm start with which to begin a solid show. Chipper
Lowell
came next.  95% comedy / 5% magic.  It
was quite literally one laugh or gag after another. One card
selection, the revelation of which was a kicker at the conclusion
of a cigar box balancing routine.  Lots of one-liners, but
many gut-wrenchingly funny.  You had to stay on your toes to
keep up, and your sides hurt by the end. Intermission. 
Despite some strong magic from Harrison & Ferdinando, I
overhead one “ringleader” in front of me complain that so far he
hadn’t seen any magic yet at Monday Night Magic.  I skipped
the close-up this time visit – it was just too hard to maneuver
into a decent viewing spot. Start of the second half began with
another fabulous (and extended) Harrison Greenbaum turn. 
Honestly – check him out. Finally Jason Bishop
brought illusions to the second half.  Was it possible to
bring Illusions to this stage?  The quite young Jason Bishop
and assistant Kim Hess would show us that it indeed was.  He
began with a talking opener to Origami.  He segued Jason Bishopwell from the talking to
the “prop-spinning” which I feel is always difficult to do. 
Indeed, many illusionists simply “queue the music” and suddenly
turn silent, which appears odd to me. It worked in the small
theater, where you could literally hear every metal flap and sword
as he worked through the routine.  Indeed, in these close
quarters Origami seemed a new beast, though equally as deceptive.
 A minor complaint – I would have liked to have seen the
tabletop a little less “bumpy” in places, if you catch my drift.
Second illusion was Metamorphosis.  He played the “examined”
and surrounded angle in this routine. He had some borderline jokes
 with the audience volunteers, but all-in-all, it was good.
His last illusion was his Steinmeyer exclusive (yes, you read that
right) “Through a Jail Window.”  It’s a bit of an odd
illusion, but I must admit that I was fooled. You can see a shot of
Jason and the prop on YouTube here.
Four examined metal rods block the frame of “jail window” in an
unusual alternating front-back way, which requires some extended
explanations.  Bringing up a child to try stick his head thru
the bars was a great idea on Jason’s part.  The relaxed, calm
manner he spoke to him was heartening. Making fun of another kid
(whom the audience was introduced to earlier by Ferdinando) was
not.  The young boy wore a cape because he loved magic, and to
get made fun of for it – well, Jason just about lost the entire
audience right then and there.  A good recovery after that
poor decision, however. (He was right about one thing, however –
what were his parent’s thinking keeping him out so late?  We
were all thinking it, too). He ended with a card and fan
manipulation routine.  His card spinning at the conclusion got
a great reaction as well.  He clearly takes pride in this
routine. It’s a bold choice to end an illusion show with something
much smaller – but it works.  All in all – I thought he was
quite good.  Some tempo changes throughout might have made it
great.  Too much of the calm, deprecating (to himself and
others) humor and explanations throughout for my taste. 
Nevertheless, all his routines show originality.  It’s
refreshing for once to see an illusionist actually be “cool”, in
stead of just trying to look “cool,” as so many unfortunately do.
Four out of four above-average performers – that’s a real win for
me at MNM.  Harrison was the clear standout for me, with
Chipper in a close second.