Anyone who has lived in Santa Monica for more than a few decades can attest, our fair city has gone from a sleepy, quaint beach town to a fast-paced mini-metropolis. It’s safe to say if something hip is happening on the Westside it’s probably happening here. In fact, it may have originated here.
Whereas Santa Monica’s trend-setter status used to be surfing, volleyball, skateboarding and roller blading, now it includes art, music, theater and fine cuisine. (Memo to self: Never write on an empty stomach because now all I can think about is where can I order out.)
Seemingly the latest of these cultural boons is from the world of magic, which is undergoing a renaissance and new-found popularity nationwide. The art of magic is being featured on TV shows, including: “America’s Got Talent.” “Penn and Teller’s Fool Us,” “Wizard Wars,” and “Masters of Illusion,” to name but a few. And starting this Monday, May 1, Santa Monica is going to be home to a magic marathon called “Magic Monday,” which I will elaborate on in a moment.
One plausible reason for the booming magic market is the need we have to escape our current reality. It seems, there’s a crazy, narcissistic little bully with a weird haircut and lots of bombs who’s raising the specter of nuclear war. (I was referring to Kim Jung-Un, but I could have just as easily meant Donald Trump, though the Donald is far from little, looking more like President Taft, our last 300-pound commander in chief.)
Starting this Monday, and every Monday for 18 weeks at the iconic Santa Monica Playhouse, will be “Magic Monday,” a theatrical parade of award-winning magicians demonstrating their mystifying talents in a family-friendly show. For the next four months, Santa Monica will be like “The Magic Castle by the Sea.”
Interestingly, world-class magic and Santa Monica have a century-old history. The event I’m referring to involved the most famous of all magicians, Harry Houdini. Suffice it to say, his death-defying “performance” had the entire city absolutely riveted.
Houdini was starring in a silent movie, “The Grim Game,” that featured an “aerial chase scene” where Houdini was to walk from the wing of one plane to the other. But something went terribly haywire causing a spectacular mid-air collision. As a result, one plane spun out of control and plummeted into the ground at 26th and San Vincente, then a bean field. (And no, the pilot was not Harrison Ford’s grandfather looking for a golf course!)
Amazingly no one was badly hurt and in the crash but even more remarkably the dramatic event was captured on film. (Google: “YouTube Houdini Grim Game, “ and see for yourself.)
Harry Houdini inspired generations of magicians and at least fifty of them will be performing in the Magic Monday series and will do so excitingly close to the audience. Not only does the intimate Santa Monica Playhouse offer great seating for all in its Victorian salon-like theater, but the show will include a magician in the charming courtyard each night to entertain early arriving customers with the fascinating art of “close-up” magic.
Magic Monday is the brainchild of long time Santa Monica resident,(and my neighbor) Albie Selznick. A veteran actor, Albie has been in over 250 commercials and over 100 starring or re-occurring TV roles. (Catch him in the new Amazon series, “The Last Tycoon,” with Kelsey Grammer, airing this summer.)
Since childhood, Albie’s greatest passion has always been magic. He’s been a professional magician for thirty years and is a lifetime member of the world famous Magic Castle in Hollywood. (By the way, Albie’s also a terrific neighbor.)
If you live in Ocean Park, you might have seen the occasionally eccentric Albie one night climbing the trees on Main Street. Fortunately, he successfully retrieved multi-colored doves who were an integral part of his “Smoke and Mirrors” act and who had escaped. (Were the doves inspired by Houdini?)
On the gala May 1 opening night, Albie will be featured along with his partner for the show, Andrew Goldenhersh, the two-time Magic Castle, “Parlor Magician of the Year award.”Andrew is renowned for his unique “effects,” one of which he sold to an extremely famous Las Vegas magician. (I’m not allowed to mention his name but I can say it rhymes with Cavid Dopperfield.)
Each week, Albie will host the crowd-pleasing show featuring the top magicians in the country and also terrific variety acts including jugglers, ventriloquists and puppeteers. So if you need to escape reality, at least for 75 mesmerizing minutes, do yourself a favor and go see Magic Monday.
For tickets go to: www.MagicMondayLA.com or phone (310) 450-2849. For my readers enter, or mention, the code “Neworth” for ½ price discount. Jack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.