Saturday August 19th 2017

“The Magnificents”

magnificents2Recommended*** There are many who say, “theater is magic”, and if you see the name Dennis Watkins on the press release or in an ad, you know that you are in for just that, “MAGIC”. Watkins is one of the country’s true geniuses when it comes to magic, and when The House Theatre of Chicago produces one of his shows ( whether created by him, or just starring him ) the audience is in for a treat.In 2012, audiences thrilled to his “Death and Harry  Houdini” ( which will return for those who may have missed it) we are treated to some magic feats again, an din the Chopin Theatre, an intimate space, we are often only 30 feet away from the magic. “The Magnificents” was first staged in 2007 and was created by Watkins as a tribute to his grandfather, Ed Watkins who was his trainer and mentor. This is in a way, his own personal story, one of love and desire with a circus atmosphere.

The story is about a traveling circus troupe, that hits the smaller communities with Watkins playing the part of Magnificent himself doing some wonderful magic right before our eyes and in many cases, using and astounding the audience members chosen. His wife, Rosie ( a delightful portrayal by Tien Doman) is also one who recognizes talent and is able to keep the “family” from falling apart. The clown is played by Michael E. Smith and the strongman, Harley by Chad Hauge ( who filled in tonight for Jeff Traynor). There is also an aerialist ( the lovely and very talented Lucy Carapetyan) who does some wonderful “silks” as well as does some clowning around with the others. It is , however, The Kid, Tommy Rapley ( who is also the choreographer) that is the character to watch. A young misfit, who wants to be a part of the show, or anything to get away from his life at home. Rosie recognizes his desire and potential talent and since Magnificent is ill and may be at the end of his magic, she feels that he needs to teach this Kid his tricks so that the troupe can survive.

The story and script are not nearly as good as the talent on the stage. I wonder , sometimes, why Watkins does’nt just do his magic onstage with no script, and now I hear that he will be doing so at The Palmer House Hilton Hotel in a show called “The Magic Parlor” on late Fridays night  in one of their intimate private dining rooms. 75 minutes of pure magic -contact www.themagicparlourchicago.com), but House is a theater company, so I understand that they feel that a story should be part of the magic. The script works, the audience has a great time and the ticket price is only $25 for this show. Director Nathan Allen brings this two hour show to life on a stage that  has seating on two sides with full view for all to see. In fact, when close at hand magic is done, a tv monitor allows us to truly get close and despite my staring with great intensity, I could see nothing out of the ordinary.TheMagnificent0

Lee Keenan’s set and lighting gives us the full effect of an out of the way traveling circus,Melissa Torchia’s costumes are near perfect. There are some wonderful video “dreams” ( Jack Mayer) and music by Kevin O’Donnell and a lot of props by Angela Campos ( with the exception of those that make up the tricks, or should I call them the proper name, “illusions”. A nice evening of solid entertainment with some very special tricks, oops, “Illusions”, one being an audience member writing down a two digit number on a slip of paper, and Watkins using a chalkboard to give us the answer. What he does is put 16 squares on the board and in each, a number. He asks if her number is on the board, she says no, but then he points out to her that each row of four numbers adds up to HER number, and in fact, either way, and on the diagonal and to make it even more brilliant, each 4 boxes also add up to her digits. WOW! There are great deal more of these as well as those that the Kid does later.

If entertainment is what you seek, The House and “The Magnificents” will satisfy those desires. This production will continue at The Chopin Theatre located at 1543 West Division ( between Ashland Ave. and Milwaukee Ave. through March 10th with performances as follows:

Thursdays,Fridays,Saturdays and Sundays at 7:30 p.m.

additional shows: at 3 p.m., 2/16,2/23,3/2, 3/3,3/9 and 3/10

All tickets are $25 ( students and RUSH tickets subject to availability, day of show, at discounts

To order, call 773-769-3832 or visit www.thehousetheatre.com

To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com  go to Review Round-up and click on “Magnificents”

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