Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Magic to do

Who: Keith Jozsef
What: Intimate Illusions
Where: The Gaslight Theatre
When: Saturday, April 6

Share on Google+

St. Louis’s own Keith Jozsef is a member of that increasingly rare species of showbiz fauna, the professional magician. Not only that, but a professional magician with a full-evening magic show—something rarely seen these days outside of high-traffic tourist traps like Las Vegas or Branson.

As the title implies, Intimate Illusions was not a Siegfried and Roy–style extravaganza. It was, however, a nice collection of different types of magic wrapped up in a very entertaining two-hour package. There were no animal effects or escapology, but otherwise Mr. Jozsef presented a kind of general store of illusion that nicely displayed his versatility as a performer.  And I say this as someone who got his start in showbiz doing magic.

Mr. Jozsef is a striking figure on stage—casually dressed and sporting a striking upswept hairstyle that looks rather like the prow of a ship. His demeanor is assured but charming, winning the audience over within moments of stepping on to the stage. In magic, as in cabaret or any other type of solo performance, quickly connecting with the audience is essential. Mr. Jozsef got us on his side early on and we stayed there until the end.

The show opened with a novel variation on the classic “Zombie ball” illusion, in which the magician covers a metallic ball with a silk cloth and then holds on to the silk as the ball floats around the stage. In this version it was a small table that was levitated but the effect was just as impressive—especially when Mr. Jozsef had an audience member hold on to the other two ends of the cloth while table continued floating.

That was a nice touch and typical of the high degree of audience participation in the show. Nearly all of the tricks involved one or more spectators, including an ingenious version of “sawing a women in half” in which the woman was an audience volunteer rather than the magician’s assistant. I’d never seen this particular take on that hoary classic (I think it might be original with Mr. Jozsef), and the illusion was quite striking.

Based on what I saw in Intimate Illusions, Mr. Jozsef does not appear to be a virtuoso manipulator of the Ricky Jay school, but the sleight of hand effects he did were smoothly executed and entertaining. I was especially impressed by a burned and restored thread effect near the end of the show. Accompanied by intriguing patter based on Hindu creation myths, it was a beautiful piece of close-up magic. I’m not sure it really “read” much past the first few rows, alas; the Gaslight Theater is not laid out in a way that makes small effects like that easy to see.

There was a fair amount of mentalism (mind reading and prediction effects) in the show. It’s a subgenre that has never interested me very much, but Mr. Jozsef did it well. He also gave us a very slick “cut and restored rope”, using a version of the venerable effect that has become rather popular lately, probably because it really does use nothing more than an ordinary length of rope.

What I really loved, though, were the larger illusions, including a very spiffy levitation that served as a finale. Now if only he’d managed to make the drunks sitting around us vanish…

According to his web site, Keith Jozsef mostly does private and corporate events, so it was quite a treat to see one of his rare public shows. My understanding is that he does a Halloween-themed show at the end of October every year, though, so as fall approaches you might want to check out his web site: keithjozsef.com.

The days when big magic shows helmed by performers like Kellar, Carter, Thurston, and Blackstone would tour the country are long gone. David Copperfield was, for a while, the last of the big touring magicians, but even he seems to have decided to stick to Vegas and let the audiences come to him. It’s good to see that guys like Mr. Jozsef are keeping the flame burning. If you get a chance to see him, don’t pass it up. He’s a local boy who has definitely made good.

No comments: