Upcoming Theatre

Following a sold-out engagement at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre this spring, actor and magician Brett Schneider’s hit one-man show COMMUNION: An Evening of Magic, returns to Chicago for three performances only August 4 – 6, 2017 at The Den Theatre’s Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. Tickets, priced at $20, are currently available at thedentheatre.com.
 
Have you ever wished you could know what someone else is thinking? What if you could? COMMUNION: An Evening of Magic is a 70-minute performance that explores magic as a proxy for human connection, and a celebration of our desire to better understand one another. Highly interactive and unconventional, COMMUNION blends world-class magic, sleight of hand and psychological suggestion with live participation from the audience. No two performances are alike.  For additional information, visit brettschneidermagic.com
 
Schneider’s previous work has received critical praise from across the U.S.:
 
“Schneider is captivating... his rapport is winning, his routines are confident, and 
he’s great at generating anticipation... you’ll need to see this.” 
–The Washington Post
 
“The show dips its toes into the realm of actual magic... some quite elaborate onstage magic from 
designer Brett Schneider involving disappearances, levitations and the like.”
--The Chicago Tribune
 
“…a highly intelligent and vulnerable actor and a first-rate magician.” 
–Time Out Chicago
 
“A magnificent central performance... [Brett Schneider] has a casually charismatic stage presence that blends the inner power of a Robert Mitchum 
with the sex appeal of a James Dean... Schneider’s ability to communicate and make intimate contact with the audience is its own kind of magic.”
–The Hollywood Reporter
 
“Handsome professional magician ‘Great’ (Brett Schneider) dazzles crowdswith his amazing card tricks… 
Schneider is a charismatic and appealing performer, impressive as both an actor and a magician.”
 –LA Weekly
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: COMMUNION: An Evening of Magic
Written and performed by: Brett Schneider
 
Location: The Den Theatre’s Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Dates: Friday, August 4 – Sunday, August 6, 2017
Curtain times: Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 7 pm
Tickets: $20. Tickets are currently available at thedentheatre.com.
 
About Brett Schneider

Brett Schneider is an actor, magician and illusion designer. Brett has been performing magic professionally for over 20 years and is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, California. His work has received numerous awards and citations and he was a finalist in World Magic Seminar. Recently, Brett starred in and created the illusions for the Goodman Theatre’s hit production of The Magic Play. In addition to magic performance, Brett also works as a magic consultant for theatre, television and film. His theatrical work has been twice nominated for a Jeff Award and has appeared in venues such as The Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and The Roundabout Theatre in New York. His work has also been incorporated into TV shows, music videos, short films and features. For additional information, visit brettschneidermagic.com.
 
About The Den Theatre

Artistic Director Ryan Martin opened The Den in 2010 with a single theatre space. Seven years later, The Den boasts five intimate and unique theatres on two floors ranging from 50 – 200 seats, as well as two additional spaces primarily used for classes and rehearsals. The Den is also equipped with two bars enveloped by a never-ending field of lounge space for audiences and like-minded culture hounds to drink, talk, read, watch, think, listen and live. The Den is home to five resident theatre companies including First Floor Theater, Haven Theatre Company, Griffin Theatre, Irish Theatre of Chicago, and The New Colony. Hundreds of other companies from Chicago and beyond have also called The Den home, utilizing its theatres, studio space and easily convertible cabaret space to accommodate a stream of programming, including plays, musicals, film screenings, classical and jazz performances, dance, improv and stand-up, seminars and speaking engagements. For additional information, visit www.thedentheatre.com.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Richly set in the intimate Royal Cabaret Theatre, The Rosenkranz Mysteries: An Evening of Magic to Lift the Spirits is a magic show with its own unique twist, separating itself from the others with its unusual theme and creative adaptations of age old illusions and tricks. Dining tables surround the prop-filled stage, which presents to us a study circa early 1900’s where one could easily see Harry Houdini practicing his arts. Unlike most magicians, renowned national illusionists Ricardo Rosenkranz is also a respected professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. That he relates magic to healing throughout the show is not just original, it is educational while his performance never loses its entertainment factor.  

The highly-polished show combines astonishing illusions set to haunting music and a series of jaw-dropping acts of mentalism using many audience members as subjects, some eager to participate and some with a nervous acquiescence that only adds to the act’s humor. Rosenkranz’s skillful ability to make his volunteers comfortable, even offering them their own chance of getting their own funny one-liners in, is part of the show’s charm.

The Rosenkranz Mysteries flows well with an even flow of humor, mystery and the seemingly unexplained tricks themselves. Often explaining the origin of an illusion while performing the act, audience members quickly become acquainted with its history, adding even more intrigue while allowing us to grasp a good feel for a turn of the twentieth century era that was rich in magic and the unknown. An era that gave us greats Houdini, Dai Vernon (“The Professor”), Eugene Laurant and Carter the Great to name a few. 

While I won’t go into details into Rosenkranz’s performed feats of magic so as not to soften the blow of their wow factor, I will say that he creates a stunning recreation of the famous Bang Sisters conjuring of spirits from the hereafter that will have you scratching your head in disbelief long afterward. I can also say that each illusion is executed with immaculate precision and done with just the perfect amount of tension building assurance.

As a professor, Dr. Ricardo Rosenkranz, who found magic at a very early age, has been integrating his illusions as a teaching aid for years to help engage his students and inspire involvement. Perhaps an unorthodox way to get your message across, but undoubtedly an effective one. 

Says Rosenkranz, “There is something beautiful and wonderful about the unknown, and I think in that sense magic and medicine share a DNA. I am committed to creating a unique experience that energizes and uplifts every audience.” The Rosenkranz Mysteries does just that.

Whether a magic buff or not, this show comes highly recommended, as it is sure to engage both believers and non-believers of the supernatural unknown. Finely directed by Northwestern graduate Jessica Fisch, featuring Ricardo Rosenkranz as “The Doctor Magician”, Jan Rose as “The Hostess” and a skull named Balsamo, this show offers a night of mystery and suspense one would be hard-pressed to forget anytime soon.

The Rosenkranz Mysteries: An Evening of Magic to Lift the Spirits is being performed at The Royal George Cabaret Theatre through December 24th. Add to the wonder of the holiday season with this true magical phenomenon. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.TheRoyalGeargeTheatre.com.       

          

 

Published in Theatre in Review

I've never been much of a magic fan. I'm always nervous for the magician just in case his trick doesn't work. But in Fooling Buddha, David Kovac seemingly does the impossible. Not only are his magic tricks top notch, he actually made me an unafraid appreciator of magic shows AND Buddhist philosophy while making me laugh at the same time. 

 

Kovac tells the story on how he grew up in Milwaukee during the 1970's raised by hippie parents who were Buddhists and forward thinkers way before their time.  Sent to a catholic school as a child to learn about African studies from Jewish teachers and being a nerd who loves magic at that time couldn't have been easy, but Kovac sure makes it funny. 

 

Kovac is a brilliant monologist though who has somehow managed to use his talent and love of magic to write a delightful one-man play full of memorable Buddhist quotes and koans (puzzles). Playing all the roles including his own mother, father and baby sister sitting around the dinner table, the bully who picked on him relentlessly and the magic shop owner to whom became a huge source of inspiration, the audience is never confused about which character is speaking.  Kovac’s delivery of beautiful Buddhist sayings like "A Miracle is a Tragedy with a Happy Ending" flow smoothly and segue so magically into each new story, pardon the pun, the 90-minute show with no intermission moves so quickly it left the heartily laughing audience visibly wanting more.  

 

Kovac’s conveyance of his one-man show is so quick and flawless, it left me struggling to mentally take notes in order to remember all the included wonderful bits of ancient knowledge. I guess I'm not the only one because David notes that Buddhism is known as the philosophy with 80,000 sayings and he proves that every time he is taught by his parents with another great, peaceful yet realistic Buddhist saying handy for almost every situation or problem that arose in his young life.  

 

The set he uses is beautifully and colorfully designed. A pleasure to watch, the set is full of secret doors and realistic windows that unfold to reveal new rooms. It is a lovely set made with great detail to the period and set with soft cozy lighting.   

 

I can't stress enough what a great writer David Kovac is and the intermingling of magic and Buddhism works perfectly to demonstrate the magic that is inherently implied in Buddhist philosophy. Kovac’s jokes and autobiography are finely told, and combined with his captivating illusions, Fooling Buddha provides a wonderful night of highly intelligent and uplifting storytelling. 

 

Kovac tells the audience he wants them to leave feeling like winners, like a magician who has just successfully shown spectators an illusion and received their applause. One of the most beautiful sayings in the show does just that in one beautiful line when he says, "There are billions of massive stars blazing across the night sky and inside you is the very same energy that lights the world." 

 

Highly Recommended.

 

Fooling Buddha is being performed at First Folio Theatre inside the enchanting Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook through April 24th.  For tickets or more information on the show, visit www.firstfolio.org.

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

Kinesics. As defined in the programs that are handed out at Marc Salem’s Mind Over Chicago, kinesics is a systematic study of the relationship between nonlinguistic body motions (such as blushes, shrugs, or eye movement) and communication. In other words, Marc Salem knows when you are lying despite what might come out of your mouth. Claiming that you can actually receive more information via body language than actual verbal communication, Salem sets the stage for some mind-blowing experiments that you will no doubt attempt to try (and most likely fail at) when you get home from the show.

A student of the human mind for over thirty years, Salem uses a combination of kinesics, mentalism and magic tricks to stun the audience over and over again for ninety straight minutes. Using jokes that often hit or miss (as Salem even has fun with a few of the bombs – making them successful after all) along with savvy mind-bending techniques, crowd members are in for a very unusual and entertaining evening. Salem is not shy about gathering volunteers from the audience, searching out doctors for some experiments and police officers for others. Though people, phrases and words are picked at random for nearly every segment, Salem is never fooled always stunning the audience with a correct prediction (written on paper ahead of time) to the quiet murmurs of “how could he possibly know that” or more simply put, “wtf!?”.  

In one of my favorite Salem “tricks” or “observations”, the master of non-verbal communication picks five audience members to join him on stage. Each person then draws a picture while Salem looks the other way. The pictures are then collected and shuffled and given to Salem. Of course, when we are shown the not so artistic pictures that the volunteers rushed to draw, that’s funny in itself. Salem then tells the five audience members to deny that they drew the picture that he holds in front of them whether they drew it or not and goes down the line, one denial after another. In a matter of seconds, Salem hands the picture with its matching artist, explaining that the slightest tell gave them away. Truly fascinating. Just as amazing, in another demonstration Salem also predicts a single word randomly picked out from an entire newspaper by a volunteer. “This is the stuff!” The man behind me excitedly told his friend. That’s pretty accurate.

Likeable and quick–witted, Salem’s quirky sense of humor and entertaining audience interactions could almost be a show in itself. But when combined with just the right amount of intrigue and inconceivable feats, Salem’s arsenal is lethal. Each portion of the show is as interesting as the next never leaving a dull moment.

Performer, magician, mentalist, comedian – whatever you want to call him, be prepared to laugh and be especially prepared to get stupefied. Marc Salem’s Mind Over Chicago is also filled with clean humor, so it’s the perfect show that an entire family can enjoy.

My first question after seeing Salem read people so accurately was, “Why hasn’t he been approached by the F.B.I. or something of that nature?” Well, he has. Salem has served as a consultant to both law firms as well as law enforcement agencies as one of the chief experts in Kinesics, of which he works closely with its founder Ray Birdwhistell. He has also been featured on many television programs including 60 minutes, Regis, Motel Williams and CNN. Touring around the world to the tune of sold out Broadway and off-Broadway productions, Salem should find the same success at his new home in Chicago’s Apollo Theater.

 

Whether you are a fan of having your mind blown or just want some good laughs, Marc Salem’s Mind Over Chicago comes highly recommended as a show that will truly entertain from beginning to end. Marc Salem’s Mind Over Chicago is being performed at The Apollo Theater in Lincoln Park. For more show information visit www.ApolloChicago.com

Published in Theatre Reviews

I have a tough time reviewing magicians because I don’t want to describe the tricks in detail and ruin the suspense for future audiences.  I will just say that my partner and I were seated in the front row right in the center next to the stage and still could not tell you how ANY of Copperfield’s amazing illusions were done, including making about 12 audience members disappear at once!

I loved that all of David’s magic assistants onstage were men!  I have always found the scantily clad female assistants in most magic acts to be a sexist distraction but in this case the casually dressed and athletic young men who helped move all of the large equipment for each illusion around really moved the show along and gave the audience a feeling that they were in the middle of the action. Copperfield’s audience involvement was excellent, just knowing that at any moment you might be thrown a ball to catch or be plucked out of the audience to go onstage was a big part of the overall suspense factor in the show.  I won’t give away the illusion but there is one part of the show where David talks at length about missing his father who passed many years ago. This was a particularly well done and heartfelt illusion that everyone in the audience could identify with.

I have mixed feelings about the use of an adorable live duck in his show only because I feel so many lesser performers will attempt this and end up hurting or abusing their show animals long term. It was a brief part of the show and should probably be phased out in favor of his many new and exciting illusions.

David is a master magician and there is a reason that he can still pack ‘em in. Considered one of the world’s best illusionists, David has been a favorite act at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for several years running and there is no reason to believe he won’t continue wowing Vegas tourists for years to come. There are several moments in David’s show that bring back the awe and wonderment that one may not have experienced since being a child.   

Overall, this was a family friendly and exciting magic show that will amaze and stun magic lovers of all ages. A recommended stop while visiting Vegas’ Strip, David Copperfield will not disappoint.  With Lance Burton now retired from his long-running gig at the Monte Carlo, Copperfield clearly stands alone as the best magic act in Las Vegas.

For a fun night of mystery and the unexplained, be sure to catch David Copperfield at Las Vegas’ MGM Hotel and Casino. David does not perform at MGM week in and week out so you’ll need to first check his schedule out at  http://www.mgmgrand.com/entertainment/david-copperfield.aspx. Show tickets are just north of $100 and there are also meet and greet tickets available for an extra cost for those who want more intimate access to the living legend.   

Published in Theatre Reviews

The Houston Ballet might not have shown us the world (shining, shimmering, splendid), but they did present the city of Chicago with an incredible production of “Aladdin” filled with the same sorcery, riches, splendor, magic, love, and romance as we’ve come to expect from the heartwarming tale of an impoverished young ne'er-do-well who becomes part of a whirlwind adventure.

HoustonBallet Aladdin 04

The Houston Ballet made its debut at the Auditorium Theatre with celebrated English choreographer David Bintley's ballet "Aladdin." The ballet was originally created for the New National Ballet of Japan in Tokyo in 2008, and the Windy City was only the fourth city to experience the performance, sharing the magic carpet ride with such cities as Tokyo and London. Most people will know the story of Aladdin from the popular 1992 Disney movie of the same name. However, the Houston Ballet's "Aladdin" follows the more traditional story of Aladdin from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights). There’s no singing genie or clever monkey named Abu, but there was no need for it in this breathtaking production.

HoustonBallet Aladdin 01

The caliber of talent that took the stage this past weekend would leave the staunchest of critics in awe. From the background dancers to the principle dancers, everyone commanded the audience’s attention with a technique and grace that prove why the Houston Ballet is a world renowned. The moment the curtains rose, the dancers instantly transported us to old Arabia. Set against spectacular scenery created by the English designer Dick Bird and coupled with an exceptional original score by Carl Davis and performed by the Chicago Philharmonic, the audience was immediately under the spell of Aladdin’s magic.

HoustonBallet Aladdin 02

While there were many highlights throughout the 2 ½ hour performance, one of the standouts had to be the cave of wonders. When the evil sorcerer convinces Aladdin to enter the cave and retrieve the magic oil lamp, Aladdin is met with jewels and riches beyond his imagination. The jewels onyx, pearls, gold and silver, sapphire, rubies, emeralds, and diamonds were all brought to life by dancers, making the riches literally dance before Aladdin’s eyes. The audience watched on, as mystified and entranced as the young peasant boy himself. Equally impressive were the comings and goings of the genie throughout the performance; whether he hovered in midair or vanished and appeared in a cloud of smoke, the genie entered with power and pizazz that would make Robin Williams himself proud. In one scene at the royal court, when the genie transforms Aladdin from rags to princely attire, the scene erupts into a frenzied dance with the genie, jewels, slaves, and courtesans. The high energy, fast moving dance was so synchronized you’d think one person was controlling the dozens of dancers on stage. It was graceful, powerful, magical, and was the definitive mark that this ballet is here to stay.

HoustonBallet Aladdin 09

Who doesn’t love the story of Aladdin? It’s a rags to riches story that has stood the test of time. The Houston Ballet’s production of “Aladdin” is nothing short of spectacular. Folks young and old gave the performance a standing ovation and were captivated for the entire duration of the performance. The sheer talent and pageantry of the ballet was a welcome change to Chicago and the Auditorium Theater. I hope more shows like this breeze through the Windy City for Chicagoans to experience. So the next time “Aladdin” flies into Chicago on its magic carpet, be sure you jump on and enjoy the ride.

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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