Jamie Allan returns to Chicago with his wife/assistant Natalie and their three-year-old daughter performing Amaze at the Rhapsody Theater, 1328 West Morse Avenue in Roger’s Park, until January 7th. Jamie Allan says, “Chicago is a city with a rich tradition of embracing magic, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to bring “Amaze” to this incredible audience.” This was the first time I saw Allan perform with iPads, a video backdrop, a haze, a strobe, laser lights, and audience smartphones.
I have always felt strongly that magicians are best appreciated in live performances. Television and films’ ubiquitous use of CGI (computer-generated imagery) and visual effects affect the credibility of a magician’s performance. You are not apt to be amazed by magic unless you can see it up close and in person. However, Jamie Allan’s live performance in AMAZE may have me revising my thoughts on this prior prejudice as his innovative use of technology increases your appreciation of his magic.
United Kingdom’s Jamie Allan embraces technology, capturing the audience in WOW moments that leave you both entertained and stunned, or should I say amazed. AMAZE, the title of his performance, is a perfect moniker for what he does with his latest family-friendly marvel. He entices you to suspend disbelief. You will want to believe in magic while still scratching your head in child-like wonderment. How does he create those illusions? I am still astounded even when he shares the truth about his magic tricks. I am sure I am not the only one who still does not fully get it.
Jamie has showmanship in his DNA. He is a consummate entertainer. His parents, whom he honors throughout this show, were both show business stars. His mother, Kay Kennedy, was a headline singer in England. His father, Alan James Nicklin, was a singer, songwriter, guitarist, and the leader of two show bands, Second City Sound and Touch of Velvet. At age eight, Jamie Allan Nicklin was already performing on the stage in a 200-seat cabaret club owned by his parents called The Horse and Jockey in Leicestershire, England. Jamie, at an early age, was fascinated by television magic shows of magicians from America. He was a big fan of Doug Henning and David Copperfield. Also, he was inspired by Harry Houdini; Allan was a creator and Co-Writer of the musical Houdini. The media often dubs him the Houdini of the 21st century.
When he declared he wanted to become a magician, his parents were completely supportive, not the typical “You want to become what?” His parents both encouraged him by allowing him to perform on their theater stage, which they purchased for Jamie and their entertainer friends to showcase their talents. They bought him his first prop and most precious toy, a 1982 Fisher Price The Magic Show Box. He demonstrated it onstage. He chose the stage name Jamie Allan and has become an international sensation by combining past magic tricks and modern technology. In this show, he does a marvelous tribute to Apple’s Steve Jobs, a true magician of technology and a real hero.
He says he is often asked if he is a magician or an illusionist. He says he thinks of himself as a magician because he employs more sleight of hand using coins and cards, whereas an illusionist means a lot more money. An illusion is something that looks like it is happening, but it is not. He demonstrates with a newspaper, tearing it into smaller and smaller pieces. He says he is not doing this and that the paper is never torn. Allan mesmerizes his audiences.
Our skepticism says he is tricking us. Our senses convince us he is tearing the sheets. We hear it. We see it. His timing is perfect as he seems to end the trick with the paper torn, but voila, he reveals the paper is indeed, unbelievably, totally intact. That blows us away. You will leave the theater wholly thrilled and amazed at this unbelievable, sensational experience.
The run time for Amaze is approximately 90 minutes with a 15-minute intermission. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays through Sundays. Saturday and Sunday, there are two matinees at 2:00 p.m. Your spiritual guide, not the server, can treat you to a menu of savory bites from pimento cheese dip, hummus plate, spiced candied nuts, and seasoned olives during the performance. Cookies and candy are available. They also serve specialty cocktails, creative mocktails, and beer and wine selections.
The Rhapsody Theater built in 1912 as a 600-seat nickelodeon and vaudeville house originally called the Morse Theater, has a rich, impressive, and storied past. It served as a jazz club cabaret, a synagogue, a shoe repair mall, the Co-Ed Theater, and in 2010 as the Mayne Stage. About a year and a half ago, it was purchased by Physician/Magician Ricardo Rosenkranz. It is now an intimate, 200-seat venue offering top-tier productions, including internationally renowned magic, chamber music, world music, dance, and cabaret performances. The space also offers patrons access to three bars, a one-hundred-ten-seat restaurant, occasional valet parking, and a free unmarked chain-linked fenced-off parking lot with forty-four spaces just east of JB Alberto’s Pizzeria. Please visit Rhapsody Theater online or call (888) 495-9001 for more information. Tickets range in price from $40.00 to $100.00.
Photos: Courtesy of Heron Agency