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Review Tue Apr 21 2015

Magical Time Travel to 1920s Speakeasy & 1960s Magic Club with Chicago Magic Lounge

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I invited my dear friend Mrs. Beeb to accompany me to the Chicago Magic Lounge so she'd have my back. Who knew what could go down at an underground magic show on a Thursday night in Uptown? I had no real cause for concern, but I did have a slight fear of being sawed in half- based solely on my limited magical experience with 1970s televised magic acts.

As I hoped, the Magic Lounge debunked my stereotypes and provided a relaxing, humorous and pleasantly mystifying foray in to the art of magic. We were escorted via a secret entrance to the elevator through an art deco lobby into Uptown Underground, a subterranean club located at 4707 N. Broadway. The interior of the club has a speakeasy vibe--with a lush and tiny stage and a heavy, antique bar staffed by gals and guys who fit in with the cabaret atmosphere. The crowd was a diverse bunch from the neighborhood and nearby suburbs out for a date night, or a good time with friends. Behind the bar was Jeremy Pitt-Payne ,the magician from Britain. We knew this because he sported a mad hatter/Union Jack get-up.

The one floor waitress was so busy that she could not be hailed--but the roving table magicians were a multifarious bunch who milled around with their cards and bantered with the crowd. This was the world of close-up magic revived. It has been called Chicago Magic since in the '60s and '70s when Chicago was the home of several thriving magic clubs such as New York Magic Lounge in Lincoln Square, the famous Schulien's in North Center, and the South Side club Little Bit O' Magic.

Our table landed Bob Schulien, a dapper veteran of cards who sat with us, presenting five or six increasingly confounding magic tricks--most that mutilated the card and gave us a handy souvenir--all while being an easy and amusing companion. It's no wonder though, since Bob is a 3rd generation magician whose grandfather Matt was the founder of the aforementioned Schulien's German restaurant and magic club and who is credited as the inventor of Chicago Magic.

The only hitch in an otherwise perfect night was when a roving magician's card trick backfired slightly and the deck landed on Mrs. Beeb's head. To be fair, the intended card with one's initials and the date on it did stick to the ceiling as planned. It was just the remaining cards that pelted her. The magician apologized profusely, everyone enjoyed a good laugh and no one was harmed, but Mrs. Beeb did seem unduly concerned for awhile that the one suspended card might suddenly come undone from the ceiling and fall upon her injuriously.

The MC and show producer, Joseph Cranford, was an amiable gentleman who kept the evening's pace light with a little Chicago magic history interspersed with the introductions.
Once the stage show began, we all relaxed with our martinis and enjoyed the antics, which began with John Sturk and some rope that seemed to vary in length in surprising ways. He started with three different lengths and ended up sometimes with one loop, one whole piece, three equal pieces, and so on. Perhaps most fun was his trick with rings where he put a volunteer through the paces of getting tangled up with him. The second act was by Edd Fairman, a mind-reading math wizard who astounded us with some serious Sudoko-like skills.

The final act was Luis Carreon, a well-coiffed guy who began in complete silence with a romantic illusion involving a candle and some rose petals that morphed in to 50-cent pieces. Over the course of the act, we learned that he moved to the US from Mexico as a youth and that his adored grandfather was a circus performer. Luis had such ease on stage that his conversational style didn't feel like the standard repartee but more like an actual connection with the audience. He tied his love of magic in with his life experience, explaining how it sustained him when he couldn't speak English well, or how he took solace in magic when bullied as a child. Luis paid homage to Yuri Geller and explained how great the man was at bending forks. Then he went on to bend every fork on the premises, and otherwise keep us all on our toes, getting everyone involved in his tricks, and being genuinely charming.

After the main event, the entertainment went on late in to the evening with the Magic Lab, a show where professional and amateur magicians work on new material and test it out on the audience. This probably accounted for the presence of a handful of magicians who were seated off to the side during the first show making small talk with their colleagues during breaks. Although we were tempted to stay, our midweek late night outing days were over long ago. So we departed, promising each other we'd bring our husbands in the near future, since the Chicago Magic Lounge hit all of the date night markers; booze, atmosphere, novelty and fun. Plus, there is the additional lure of the possibility that you or your mate will be called on stage to assist in some magic making that will not require either of you to be sawed in half.

Magic Lounge shows are every Thursday night at 8 and 10pm in the Moon Room at Uptown Underground, 4707 N. Broadway. Tickets are $20.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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