Do you believe in magic? I am always amazed and astounded when I watch a true magician do his (or her) thing. My ten year old grandson has become fascinated with the art of magic and so when I saw an opportunity to take him to see Chicago’s own Dennis Watkins do his special show “The Magic Parlour” at the Palmer House Hotel in the loop. How fitting that this magician learned from his grandfather, making him a third generation magician, would be performing the things he learned from his grandfather for me and my grandson.
When we arrived at the hotel, we were signed in at the Potters Lounge on the first floor. Dennis Watkins arrived and spoke with us and then we followed him up to the third floor and a stunningly intimate room set up with one row of chairs with small cabaret type tables behind. His “stage” was right in front of us, only a few feet away. He explains to the 30 plus people who attended (a very intimate audience) that this was not a show of glitz and gimmicks. If someone got in a box and disappeared, that would mean it was just a special box. The magic that we witnessed was in fact watching something even more spectacular and very special.
I certainly don’t want to tell you all the special experiences (note: I truly feel that “trick” is the wrong word and that experience really sums it up), but almost every person in the audience gets to participate in this 90 minutes of pure magic. The evening started off with Watkins handing a large orange to a young man in the first row. The young man was to hold onto this orange until Watkins yelled, does anyone have an orange. He then gave a small wrapped box, called his “encore box” to another audience member for later. And then it truly started-
He asked for a dollar and being a nice guy, I offered up a one dollar bill. He took my dollar and then asked me to come up to the stage area with him where he tore off the serial number corner and handed it to me. The rest of the bill was ripped to shreds and then lit on fire. It was gone. This is where he asked for an orange and the young man complied- ” I have an orange” he yelled and the audience (who had been slightly coached) yelled yeah and applauded. Watkins took the orange, cut it open and inside the orange was a dollar bill, very juicy and he handed it to me. The piece I held fit perfectly! The evening was off to a fantastic start!
Every little story that he told led to amazing feats of “miracles”. Not wanting to divulge all of the evening, I will tell you that he gets the audience very involved from the start to the finish. There are amazing mental experiences, one of which had a gentleman scan a book (one that he selected out of a choice of three), turn the pages and find a word. Write the word down on a slip of paper, he is told. This is part of a three segment experience and this one is where the “encore box” plays into the evening. The box that he placed in the care of another audience member, a sit turns out, had the word on s slip contained within, the entire evening. How could this have been?
There were amazing experiences all evening. Adam, who is into magic and does several tricks along with his good friend David, was mesmerized by what he was seeing. In fact, I think he found this show more exciting, and memorable, than “The Illusionists” production from Broadway in Chicago last Winter. To quote Adam, “As I expected, it was a great show. The magic was unreal and only five feet in front of us. To make it more fun, almost everyone in the audience got chosen to participate and had a great time”. This is from a 10 year old, who by the way was selected to participate in an amazing experience: Adam and Watkins broke open a brand new deck of cards. Adam selected a card, and using a “magic marker” wrote his name on the card. He then placed the card back in the deck and in his pocket. Watkins then handed him a balloon to blow up. This was very funny as it was a 7 foot balloon, which of course could not be blown up, so Watkins then used a leaf blower to fill it, and then he himself got into the balloon. Yes, he got IN the balloon. He then turned his body around do only his head was out of the balloon and asked Adam to that the deck of cards from his pocket and on the count of three, gently toss the entire deck at the balloon. Adam did as instructed and the balloon blew with Watkins left holding a knife with one card on the blade- it was Adams’ card. Amazing! the smile on Adam’s face was a magical moment!
As Adam and I rode home on the Red Line, I could still see that smile on his face, having had a special experience, one that we truly shared and will remain a special memory for us forever. This in itself makes for a magical evening and one that you will relish as well. The shows are as follows: Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and then at 9:30 p.m. Right now, there are also Sunday shows at 2 p.m.(best for kids, but even then, I think they should be around ten or so, at least). The show is $75 per person and includes a soft drink or a glass of wine or beer (for the adults) and reservations can be made by calling 773-769-3832.
As I said many times, this is a magical experience. A special event and that is why I have placed this at theater reviews and cabaret. Watkins is a producing partner in The House Theatre of Chicago, where he has done some magical productions as well. Check them out at www.thehousetheatre.com and if you ever hear that they are doing “Death and Houdini” order your tickets right away. The Palmer House Hilton Hotel is located at 17 East Monroe Street, but also has entrances on Wabash Avenue and State Street. You enter the hotel, go up one flight to the lobby and there, on that floor, you will find the potter Lounge, where it all begins!
To see what others have said, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at The Magic Parlour