Monday Night Magic - The Story
“Monday Night Magic,” New York’s longest-running Off-Broadway magic show, is produced by Michael Chaut, Frank Brents, Todd Robbins, Peter Samelson, and Jamy Ian Swiss.
In 1997, New York City was, for the first time in more than 20 years, without a venue featuring live magic.* Given New York’s longstanding and significant magical history – it had once been the home of Dai Vernon, the most influential sleight-of-hand artist of the 20th century – Michael Chaut decided that it was time to do something to remedy that situation. He began by assembling a team of expert counselors to assist him in his mission, who collectively totaled over a century’s worth of performing experience between them.
Chaut began by approaching the artistically innovative and influential magician Peter Samelson, who had been a regular performer at the Magic Towne House in the 1970s. Samelson in turn referred Michael to magician’s magician and author Jamy Ian Swiss, who had been a regular at a later NYC magic venue, Mostly Magic. Swiss brought in Todd Robbins, the Coney Island Wonder Worker, with whom Swiss had worked at Mostly Magic. Swiss had been involved with a number of specialty magic venues around the country, and had produced shows in Greenwich Village featuring Samelson and Robbins, among other performers, in the aftermath of Mostly Magic’s closing. Chaut then invited on board his longtime mentor, Frank Brents, a world-class veteran with 40 years of performing experience, who had toured the world multiple times and performed for royalty and presidents. And for a time, Magic Towne House regular, magician and film actor Peter Maloney, also served as an early advisor.
The team set to work and after a handful of early experiments, “Monday Night Magic” debuted in Greenwich Village. The weekly show began at The Sullivan Street Playhouse, the home of America’s longest-running musical, “The Fantasticks.” Although it was difficult at first to find acts, and it took time to work the kinks out of the format, eventually the show began to take consistent shape, and was already established as New York’s home for magic before its first relocation, after more than four years at Sullivan Street.
In the aftermath of September 11th, five Broadway shows closed within a week, and the entire theatre industry was economically devastated for more than a year to come. During this period, “Monday Night Magic” moved uptown to smaller quarters at the McGinn-Cazale Theatre on the Upper West Side, surviving the downturn.
In May 2003, Monday Night Magic returned to its downtown haunts with a move to the larger Soho Playhouse, not far from the original Sullivan Street location. After a stay of several years in the 160-seat St. Clement’s Theatre on West 46th Street, just up the street from Manhattan’s Restaurant Row, the show finally reached it's current home at the Bleecker Street Theatre, located near our downtown roots in the trendy East Village.
Since its inception, “Monday Night Magic” has provided a first-class setting for the presentation and enjoyment of magic that eschews the use of giant props, scantily clad assistants, wild animals, and Las Vegas frills. Rather, the show features professional entertainers who perform skillful magic accompanied by distinctive personalities. While families are welcome, “Monday Night Magic” is not a children’s show – it’s an evening of sophisticated performance for adult audiences. Each week the theatre is filled with a mix of both newcomers and repeat customers, New York City locals and international tourists, all seeking – and finding! – a unique evening of unusual and original performance.
Every show features four performers on stage featuring diverse performing styles and types of magic; during the extended intermission, at least two magicians in various locations throughout the theatre presenting intimate close-up magic. The roster is a veritable Who’s Who of Magic, as witnessed by the biographies found elsewhere on the Monday Night Magic website. By the same token, “Monday Night Magic” has provided unique opportunities for young performers to earn their stripes and get a chance to be seen by the public. The producers are proud of the many young performers who made some of their earliest appearances at Monday Night Magic, and are now not only regular performers at the weekly show, but are operating as successful full-time professionals in New York City and across the country.
By presenting a carefully assembled program of select performers in ideal theatrical circumstances, the underlying message communicated to every patron is that magic is a unique and legitimate art form – as powerful as a medium of original artistic expression as it is effective as commercial entertainment. The show makes new magic fans each and every week, and also serves longstanding fans and welcomes visiting magicians from around the world. Monday Night Magic is truly New York City’s home for magic.
And so it is magic but it's no miracle that “Monday Night Magic” has thrived, and, now in it s 15th year, has returned to the Greenwich Village and can be found at the Players Theatre, located at 115 Macdougal St., between West 3rd St.and Bleecker.
With more than 550 performances under its award-winning belt, the show has been featured in virtually every major press and media outlet in New York, was singled out as “New York’s Best Magical Venue” by “TimeOut NY” magazine, awarded a “Best of Manhattan” by the “New York Press,” and its performers have been featured in countless television appearances, including on national programs like “Good Morning America” and repeat appearances on “The Today Show.” No wonder that the producers, via the show’s parent firm, Magical Nights Inc., provide magic and more for top corporate and private events, with a client list that starts with the Fortune-100 and ends with hundreds of satisfied clients from coast to coast and beyond.
So what are you waiting for? Come and spend the most magical night New York City has to offer at “Monday Night Magic.” We’ve got a seat with your name on it – prepare to be amazed. It’s a night of magic you will never forget!
Michael Chaut, Frank Brents, Todd Robbins, Peter Samelson, Jamy Ian Swiss (Producers)
* In the 1970s the Magic Towne House, operated by Dick Brooks and Dorothy Dietrich, presented close-up magic on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. In the 1980s, the magician Imam, a Magic Towne House alumnus, opened Mostly Magic in Greenwich Village; that club’s successful 17-year run ended with its closing in 1995. Dick Brooks and Dorothy Dietrich currently operate the Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania – http://www.houdini.org/ – and are frequent and welcome visitors at “Monday Night Magic.”