Presto strange-o. On Sunday, Sept. 29, New York's Lamb's Theatre premiered Joseph Gabriel Magic On Broadway, a evening of sleight-of-hand and large-scale illusions.
Produced by Catco Inc., a "vertically-integrated toy and entertainment company," Magic will feature "free-flying exotic birds, including parrots, macaws, doves and cockatoos" and incorporate humor, music and audience participation.
In his highly positive New York Post review (Oct. 2), Clive Barnes praised Joseph Gabriel as "a major master at sleight-of-hand conjuring...a smart cookie and a wonderful operator."
"He does things with birds," Barnes continues, "it's part conjuring but also part bird training, that seem tantalizingly incredible. And he does other nice illusions."
Barnes mildly criticized Gabriel's too-slick, Vegas-y patter but did say that English-born juggler, Romano Frediani was, "as the English say, `brilliant!'," and that "Gabriel's entire show (chorus girls as well) has an endearing air of concentrated effort to please about it. Lawrence Van Gelder, in his review for the New York Times (Oct. 2), joked "At the end of his entertaining new show...Joseph Gabriel pulls off the toughest trick in New York: he makes a taxi appear on comand." Van Gelder went on to praise the show's simplicity and called it "good fun."
Pamela Renner, of Time Out - New York, saw the show's slickness (embodied by Gabriel's "honeyed, practiced smoothness") as both good and bad: "[The] lack of doubt is somehow disappointing. His act has all the physical charm of a Roman street performance, but none of the necessary edge."
Although the Lamb's Theatre has the avenue of Broadway as a cross street, the show's title, "Magic On Broadway isn't technically correct, since the playhouse is, by Equity definition, an Off-Broadway space.
Gabriel will also have to pull some real magic out of his hat because the show, scheduled for an open run, will soon be going up against David Copperfield's extravaganza, Dreams And Nightmares, which will open in November at the Martin Beck Theatre and run through Dec. 29.
As for Gabriel, Johnny Carson called his 1983 debut performance on "The Tonight Show," "One of the classiest magic acts you're going to see in a long time! The best I've ever seen!"
Joseph Gabriel has been a featured act in the "Lido de Paris" at the Stardust in Vegas for two years and has starred for ten years in the Flamingo Hilton's City Lites. In 1983, Gabriel made his mark with a show at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, which led to his booking on Carson. He played a Command Performance for President Reagan at the White House in 1989. Gabriel was also chosen as magic consultant to work closely with Michael Crawford and Scott Faris (director) to oversee the illusion effects of MGM Hotel's $40 million EFX show.
Those interested in seeing the magician's special effects in person at the Lamb's Theatre should call (212) 997-1780 for tickets and information.
-- By David Lefkowitz