Great magic convinces
you that the hand is truly quicker than the eye, and that everything you
learned in high school physics no longer applies. For great magic, Southern
California is blessed with three excellent venues: The Magic Castle, Magicopolis,
and Wizardz Magic Dinner Theater. From miracles with cards and coins, to
birds that seemingly fly from nowhere, to large-scale illusions that levitate,
decapitate, and separate, these three venues deliver magic goods that leave
you laughing, baffled, and awestruck.
If you've never experienced
a professional magic show, you'll find that it is highly entertaining live
theater in itself. Whether you see it on a stage, or up close on a table,
this is the way magic was meant to be seen in the art's long tradition,
leagues beyond televised magic shows. If images of stuffy black tuxedos,
stiff top hats, and fast-appearing rabbits are all that come to mind when
you think of magic, think again. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the artistry,
comedy, panache, and mystery that the performers in Southern California's
venues bring to the art.
One other note: when
you see a live magic show, don't be surprised or rattled if a magician picks
you to select cards, or participate in the show. It's all in the fun, and
part of the interaction that makes magic happen (but you do have to remember
which card you picked). Each of LA's three magic venues has its own strengths,
but in a flash of light, the appearance of a dove, or the location of a
card, they'll undoubtedly make a believer out of you.
The Magic Castle
If the world of magic has a center, it lies in a classy Victorian mansion
in Hollywood that's known internationally as The Magic Castle. The Castle
is many things: a showcase for the world's best magicians, headquarters
for the Academy of Magical Arts, and an exclusive club for magicians and
fans of magic.
To visit the Castle,
you must know a current member who can give you a guest pass, which gets
you into the doors. Once you're in, you experience dinner and a full evening
of magic that's presented in three different theaters and can consist of
up to seven amazing acts. Without a doubt, The Magic Castle serves up the
most magic of any of the venues in a single evening.
The Magic Castle itself
is an elegant old house with a mysterious air. The labyrinth of hallways
may bring to mind a graceful Winchester mansion, and the tradition of magic
is everywhere. In one room, Irma, an invisible, ghostly piano player will
play almost any tune you can think of, and answers your questions in humorous
song. Also part museum, The Castle features areas that honor magic's best,
including Blackstone and Dai Vernon, and there are magic and show biz relics
You can see stage acts
in the Palace of Mystery. Here, on any given night, you're bound to see
a conjurer with birds, and two other magicians with large-scale illusions.
The Parlor of Prestidigitation offers stand-up magic, with two separate
acts a night. Magicians here perform miracles with ropes, cards, rings,
and more, and may blow you away with some amazing mind-reading. Finally,
there's the intimate close-up gallery, where you can watch the cards, coins,
and more as a magician works the table. Acts change weekly, and there are
shows seven nights a week. And beyond the theaters, you're likely to catch
magicians performing impromptu throughout the Castle.
As the world headquarters
for the Academy of Magical Arts, the Magic Castle is an exclusive club for
magicians, who audition to become members. For these members, the Castle
library houses a comprehensive collection of books, magazines, and writings
on the art. The Castle is also a popular place for magicians to simply hang
out and swap stories and secrets.
With a guest pass, you'll
pay a $10 cover charge to get in, even before dinner. The Castle's ambiance
is elegant, and the food is first rate. Entries and a dessert for two can
run into the $60-70 range. With dinner, you receive passes that guarantee
you seats in the Palace of Mystery theater. Seating is still first come,
first served, so it's best to get in line as early as you can.
A few tips: when you
arrive, be sure to review the show schedules at the entrance to the close-up
room, or in front of the Palace of Mystery, and plan your evening around
your dinner reservation time, and the show times. On most nights, allow
at least fifteen minutes prior to each parlor and close-up show to get in
line. The close-up room has the most limited seating, so allow the most
line time for this theater. Keep in mind that the acts in the parlor and
close-up rooms change mid-evening, and you can see an entirely different
show in the same room after 10:00.
Even with a guest pass,
you must make a reservation ahead of time. The Castle has a strict dress
code--men must wear a tie, coat, and dress shoes, and woman need dressy
apparel as well. No children are allowed into The Castle, except for Sunday
brunches. On Sunday afternoons, a meal is part of the deal, and families
get to see a big stage act (typically a shortened version of the stage act
that is appearing that week), a kid-oriented parlor act, and close-up magic
performed by the Castle's junior members (magicians under 21). On Sunday
afternoons, the Castle lifts the dress code.
Without a doubt, there's
no magic venue in Southern Californiaor, for that matter, the world--that
has the history and, well magic, of The Magic Castle. If you're lucky enough
to know a member, do not miss an opportunity to visit it.
The new kid on Southern California's magic block is Magicopolis, and while
it's only a couple of months old, it's already a seasoned pro. Magicopolis
serves up astounding magic in a classy venue that's one block from Santa
Monica's popular Third Street Promenade. Here you can see a solid lineup
of large-scale stage acts, along with close-up magic. If you like your magic
straight, without having to eat a meal, Magicopolis is the place to go,
and it costs the least.
Magicopolis offers a
roomy stage theater with comfortable seats that are set on a steep incline.
There's hardly a bad seat in the house, except for the extreme right and
left front rows. The steep incline will even let a five-year-old sit behind
a basketball player and still see all the action--a marvelous venue for
magic watching. The smaller Hocus Pocus room seats up to 40 people so they
may watch intimate close-up magic. The seats in the back are a bit distant
to catch the fine nuances of cards and coins, so it's best to grab a seat
in the first four rows.
Unlike SoCal's other
magic venues, a Magicopolis show involves no mealsyou visit to watch
great magic. There is a bar in the front that serves snacks, coffee, and
soft beverages. You make reservations for shows, and once you arrive, you
get in line, and then seat yourself in the theater. Magicopolis also hosts
kids' birthday parties that includes pizza, a cake, and a show.
Resident magician Bob
Sheets performs captivating close-up magic with cards, dice, balls, and
more, in the lobby's front bar. Sheets is also a big part of the stage show,
where he levitates audience members, finds cards by stabbing them, and performs
a mind-warping rope trick---and he does it all with lots of humor. Along
with Sheets, there are usually two other major acts in the stage show, often
magic comedy acts, or big-time illusions by noted artists such as Greg Wilson,
and the Gamesters.
The night we attended,
we saw an amazing display of sleight-of-hand artistry in the close-up room
by James Lewis, who climaxed his routine by making coins penetrate a glass
table. Most acts at Magicopolis run for a month or longer, so you have plenty
of time to catch an act, and go back to see it again if you wish. You can
check out the Web page at www.magicopolis for show times and acts.
As a facility, Magicopolis
lacks the techno-glitz of Wizardz, or the decor and elegance of The Magic
Castle, but its simple, somewhat industrial, look lends itself to the magic
within. The impressive stained-glass windows in the lobby depict magic's
greats: Kellar, Thurston, Houdini, and more. The front of the facility may
be rather modest, but true magic does lie within.
Magicopolis offers the
lowest cost magic shows in LAyou can see an impressive twenty-minute
close-up act for as little as $10. Also, there's no dress code, and kids
are welcome. One note: if you're not fond of kids, you may want to avoid
the afternoon shows, which tend to include birthday parties. But you can
easily make an afternoon out of some shopping and eating at the Promenade,
and then cap the day with wonderful magic. Or travel to Santa Monica just
to see the magicit's worth it.
Wizardz Magic Dinner
Nestled squarely in the tourist mecca that is Universal Studios' CityWalk,
Wizardz Magic Dinner Theater delivers a dazzling, entertaining dinner show
that's squarely for the family. You can't miss Wizardz' opulent facade in
the center of City Walkit's beyond the hanging King Kong and near
the shooting fountains.
On any given night,
Wizards showcases three engaging acts: a bird act, a comedy routine, and,
for the finale, large-scale illusions. The mix is visual, well-paced, and
as enchanting to youngsters as it is to their parents. Wizardz also hosts
lots of foreign guests, who don't need to understand English to enjoy the
show. The performers are well known magicians such as Ed Alonzo and Chuck
Jones, and the three-tiered line-up changes weekly. Also, warming up the
crowd and closing the show is an impressive laser-light show.
The large Theater of
Illuzionz seats 280 for dinner, and the enormous stage gives performers
lots of room to work their magic. Wizardz is a dinner show, and you have
your choice of sirloin steak, grilled chicken, or vegetable lasagna, and
there's a chicken tenders kids' meal. If you opt for the Sunday afternoon
show, you can save a few dollars.
Wizardz is a great destination
for birthday parties, celebrations, and special events. During the laser
light show, you can have your event spelled out in large letters, and this
sequence elicits lots of spirited yelling from the crowd. The best tables
are in the front and center of the theater. Back tables are distant, and
the levels above the main floor offer excellent views of the stage--however,
the magic is most impressive at stage level. You can arrange your table's
location when you make your reservation.
Besides the magical
dinner shows, there's more to Wizardz. Next to the theater is the Magic
Potionz Bar. This high-tech, neon bar serves specialty drinks, and roaming
close-up magicians will astound you at your table. Also, there are tarot
card and palm readers, whose services you may request at additional cost.
And if all this magic inspires you to learn a little of your own, you can
visit the Wizardz Wonderz Gift Shop for tourist-priced magic tricks. In
all, it's a fun and memorable experience.