After one year in development, three months of rehearsals and two previews, Houdini: La Magia del Amor opened at Mexico City's Teatro Benito Juarez Nov. 5 to a standing ovation. The new through sung Mexican musical based in the life of the legendary illusionist received mostly favorable reviews from the critics.
The critics praised Antonio Calvo's rich score, which ranges from blues ("Bola de Cristal"), to catchy Broadway-style musical numbers ("El Rey de la Magia", "Bienvenidos a Coney Island", "Las Tres Bodas") and powerful touching songs ("Siempre te Amare", "La Magia del Amor", "Por ti mi Vida Doy"). Patricia Perrin's lyrics and Rafael Perrin's direction were also very well received.
Enrique Chi, who portrays Harry Houdini, was unanimously praised for his voice, acting capabilities and strength and ability to recreate Houdini's complex and risky acts on stage. Chi risks his life 7 times a week in the "Water Torture Cell" act, which according to producer/composer Antonio Calvo (who also staged the magic and escape acts) is an actual recreation of Houdini's famous act without the use of any tricks.
The critics also lauded other cast members like Lorena D' la Garza, who plays Bess Rahner (Houdini's wife) and Lupita Sandoval, who plays Houdini's possessive mother, Cecilia Weiss.
Regarding the sets and costumes, some critics stated that although they are not spectacular they are very effective. The show features 22 set designs by Monica Raya and 250 costumes designed by Oriet Fernandez. Most of the critics stated that Houdini, La Magia del Amor has a strong potential to become an international hit. A CD with the highlights from Houdini: La Magia del Amor will be released in mid-December, while the complete recording will be available in January 1998.
Here are excerpts from two of the Houdini reviews:
*From Alfredo Gudini of XEW-900 Radio AM:
"Finally, Houdini: La Magia del Amor opened at the Teatro Benito Juarez. I am impressed. The show features a beautiful score, which was written by the talented Antonio Calvo. The lyrics by Patricia Perrin are really good. Enrique Chi, who plays Houdini, deserves this season's award for best actor in a musical. . .after all those physical stresses [of the magic acts] he sings beautifully. His acting is superb. The rest of cast is also first-rated, the show is very complete, it features an interesting plot, circus acts, beautiful girls and spectacular musical numbers. It's a musical with the quality of the international musical hits".
*From El Heraldo de Mexico (Notimex) newspaper:
Houdini: La Magia del Amor is a show that features magic, escape acts, music, songs and dances. It narrates the most important moments in the life of Harry Houdini, the best magician and illusionist of all times. Enrique Chi's performance is outstanding, not only for the risks that portraying Houdini may carry, but also for the great discipline he demonstrates in the recreation of the different magic acts on stage. Chi has a powerful and well-trained voice. He has a great ability for musical comedy".
--By Claudio Carrera