When Joseph Gabriel's Magic returned to Off-Broadway's Lamb's Theatre, Nov. 26, 1997, the idea was to run it just through the holidays. Well, those holidays ended up including Washington's Birthday, Passover, and darn near Memorial Day.
The show, which has gone through several title changes since its first incarnation as "Magic On Broadway," will end its run May 17, according to a spokesperson from the David Rothenberg press office.
In "Magic," (recently retitled "Magic `98"), Gabriel again prestidigitates with "free-flying exotic birds, including parrots, macaws, doves and cockatoos" and incorporates humor, music and audience participation.
Gabriel has been a featured act in the "Lido de Paris" at the Stardust in Vegas for two years and has starred for 10 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.
Asked how the idea came about to bring such a Vegas-style show to Off-Broadway, Gabriel told Playbill On-Line, "We knew we'd be different from everything else in the industry. One partner of mine has an office in New York, and two years ago he said, `Wouldn't it be great to have a large-scale magic show in New York? That would be very novel for the Big Apple.' What's nice is the Lamb's Theatre is very intimate, and people can feel like I'm doing the show in their living room." Audience contact is important for Gabriel, who says, "In Las Vegas, you do your show, and it's marketed and pre-sold so heavily, you have groups from Taiwain and Japan booking six months in advance to come to a hotel, and their arms are twisted to go see whatever's playing in the club. But here, people actually choose what they want to see."
Gabriel also appreciates the range of audience members he can get in New York. Lots of kids are seeing the show, and I have a trick specifically to bring a five or six-year-old up onstage. Adults enjoy that, too, because it's a kid doing it. With Disney and Times Square becoming more family oriented, I think the show fits right in."
Continued Gabriel, "People come and suspend their disbelief. And it doesn't matter how much sophistication of wonderment is in a particular trick; the point is the audience is fooled and taken away from their day to-day reality, away from the norm." Gabriel added that the legit theatre gig is something of a wish come true for him: "I remember growing up in Jersey and watching [critics] Stewart Klein and Joel Siegel and Clive Barnes talking about shows, and then going to the theatre and seeing other people's faces on the cover of Playbill. Now those critics are saying lovely things about me, people are coming to my show and seeing my face on a Playbill!"
As for the Lamb's upcoming schedule, in 1998-99, director Jim Hullinger is already rooting for one show to come in: Joe DiPietro's play, Over The River And Through The Woods, recently staged at the Helen Hayes Theatre in Nyack, NY. That show previously received a reading at the Inge Festival, featuring Polly Holliday and Eileen Heckart. It was then mounted at the American Stage Company in 1996 and got a full staging at the Berkshire Theatre Festival this past summer. DiPietro is the author/lyricist of the Off-Broadway hit, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, which continues its long run at the Westside Theatre.
-- By David Lefkowitz