Jamie Allan can teach a masterclass in performing magic as emotional engagement. His spectacular show “Amaze” features world-class illusions performed by a man who has been perfecting them his entire professional life, and everything he does on stage is based on personal storytelling, focusing on his love for his parents and his wealth. from childhood memories.
The result is the kind of rare magic show where you can see (as I did on Sunday night) a father and son move their chairs a little closer together as a result of the experiences they experience through each other’s eyes. “Amaze” certainly has a marketing hook, but Allan’s arts center is essentially no different from Stephen Sondheim or Tony Kushner’s. He reveals in every trick that everything is both connected to the past and forever indebted to it.
Allan had been to Chicago before. In fact, some of the illusions in a holiday show currently being held at the Rhapsody Theater in Rogers Park were staged by Allan at the Harris Theater, a large downtown venue, where I sat among a seemingly sold-out crowd. 2018 is a completely different era when it comes to live entertainment in Chicago.
At the time, Allan’s show was called “iMagic”, reflecting his interest in using Apple products as the center of his magic (including both iPads and phones from audience volunteers). I mostly enjoyed myself.
No disrespect to Harris, but the show in Rhapsody is much better; especially since the intimate space seems to have freed Allan from the need to fill with grand illusions the space that is not where his heart lies. In such a space, he can focus more on the audience’s collective heart, spinning stories of his showbiz parents, trying to lead his audience not so much away from sleight of hand as to what really matters. I was transported back to my childhood, and I can tell you this was true for most people in the room.
Beyond the venue, which looks better than I’ve ever seen before thanks to Allan’s rich technical equipment, the magician himself now arrives in the midst of all this deception, with a disjointed sensibility and an unusual warmth and openness, and for which he makes no apologies. Instead of trying to guess how he does all his routines for the night, he repeatedly tells his viewers to just relax and have fun with their partners, friends, or family members. (Even if you’re experienced with such programmes, you won’t find it easy.) This is audience-centred, narrative-driven magic, clearly the result of a long career on the international road (Allan is British and his assistant is his wife Natalie) and the ability to use one’s own canoe and eliminate extraneous things A newfound determination to His parents are no longer alive and I suspect that was a big catalyst.
Early in his career, Allan was a well-known TV personality in the United Kingdom and a regular on holiday shows and the like. You’d pat him and feel his gratitude, but now he’s definitely working deeper, anticipating his audience’s needs in a way few in his profession can, and exploring how a magic show can gloss over the losses present in all of our lives. But it still has all the old polish and techniques (the explosive finale is spectacular) and plenty of interactive technology. And as you surely know, people love being able to pull out their phones for a moment.
Shut down again, this becomes a bright way to spend an evening with someone you love, and a show that goes far beyond just another magician at one of Chicago’s growing inventory of magic rooms. You will most likely get your own table and drinks are served.
I’m sure “Amaze” will surprise you, although not quite in the way you expect.
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Chris Jones is a Tribune critic.
Review: “Great” (4 stars)
When: Until January 7
Where: Rhapsody Theatre, 1328 W. Morse Ave.
Working time: 2 hours
Tickets: $30-100 rhapsodytheater.com