On the Magic Trail

You’re never too old — or too young — for magic, a fact that producer Michael S. Chaut must have realized six years ago. Chaut, a magician and producer of Magical Nights, Inc., produces both Monday Night Magic weekly at the Soho Playhouse, and Magic Matinee every Saturday and Sunday afternoon at Jekyll & Hyde restaurant, in the West Village. He started the shows in part, he says, to give himself a place to perform. “In 1997, there was no place in the city where people who loved great magic could see it. We decided to change all that,” he explains. In six years, Chaut’s Monday venue has featured more than 250 magicians and has gained a reputation as one of the “best kept secrets” in Manhattan entertainment.

Magic Matinee is for the younger set — ages 4 to 11. The kids’ show features a different magician every week. Our show starred comic magician Dennis Kyriakos, who dubbed himself “Magician of the Day” and promptly asked: “Hey kids, do you know how to use your imagination?” Kyriakos squashed a Coke bottle in a paper bag, boasted to the audience that “I went to Hogwarts”, and thrilled a set of pre-Kers by making cards appear and disappear in their pockets. Working off a small stage in an intimate private room upstairs from the restaurant, Kyriakos mixed some fine sleight-of-hand with a few sheer goofball tricks, and often brought kids on stage to help, with hilarious results. The hour-long, interactive show closed with Kyriakos revealing to his young audience at least one secret of the trade — how to turn a red hankie into an egg, and back again. Food from the restaurant is available, although it is not required as part of the show.

Monday Night Magic (recommended for ages 12 and over, no children under 8 admitted) showcases world-renowned magicians in a vaudevillian-like performance and setting (a turn-of-the-century theater, which was built when people were smaller than they are today, judging by the size of the seats). Our performance featured opening acts by Will Shaw, a master juggler and top spinner; and comic magician Uncle Pete (Peter Kougasian) who mixes magic with monologue in a fast-paced, politically hilarious show. The headliner was the famous “Rocco”, a sleight-of-hand champion who made countless items (light, water, Hershey’s kisses, flowers, coins) disappear and reappear countless — and I mean, countless — times. Acting host/emcee was Simon Lovell, a wisecracking Brit whose cleverness is surpassed only by his superb sense of timing. Lovell, lanky and with a twisted sense of humor, has been described in reviews as “half man, half straight-jacket”. Audience members are frequently coerced to participate — especially those sitting in the first row. So be aware of what you are getting in to when you buy front row seats. During intermission, other magicians performed some razzle-dazzle close-up tricks with coins and cards for audience members in the theater and the downstairs parlor. The show’s website occasionally offers discounts to the show, and has links to other magic events taking place nationwide. Magic Matinee is a great birthday idea and Monday Night Magic is a must for any budding young magician, or even the child who simply loves doing card tricks. In fact, almost every magician I spoke to started doing magic as a child, long before the thrill of it disappeared.

Info: • Magic Matinee, Jekyll & Hyde restaurant, 91 Seventh Ave. South, (212) 541-9505, ext. 203; $20 ; www.mondaynightmagic.com/fhome.html • Monday Night Magic, SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam St., (212) 615-6432; $29.50-$32 ; www.mondaynightmagic.com — Janet Sassi