By James Auer
of The Journal Staff
Too few tricks and too much Terpsichore mar an otherwise exemplary attempt to launch Milwaukee’s own David Seebach as a nationally important stage attraction in “Wonders of Magic.”
The show, all dressed up and boasting some of the most baffling illusions in the modern conjuror’s repertoire, vastly pleased a sizable crowd at its opening night at the Pabst Theater.
It continues here through March 26, then goes on tour under auspices of its originator, the Edgewood Agency Inc.
Seebach, 30, is, of course, the lanky, satanically bearded wizard formerly known as Divid
Under the tutelage of producer Lewis Friedman and director /choreographer Tracy Friedman he has been installed in a splashy, fast-moving vehicle ,with great promise but a few rough edges which will, one trusts, be honed away as the run proceeds.
Many good points
The production’s good points are many – eye filling costumes by Linda Sarver, applause-wining sets by Stewart Johnson and a general sense of pace, color coordination and purposefulness that is sadly lacking in many magic shows.
Its weakness lies in a certain sensation of overproduction, of visual flash taking precedence over the basic business of magic.
And this, in turn, results in the impression that the star, normally an amiable, unpretentious fellow, is awash in such a rush of glitz and glitter, neatly staged turns and pre-recorded music that he isn’t free to unleash the energy and spontaneity, that brought him to public attention in the first place.
All of which is not to say that “Wonders of Magic” isn’t a pretty dazzling enterprise, overall.
There’s a levitation, presented amidst spinning reflective globes, that is as far ahead of the effect as it is usually presented as “Star Wars” is ahead of “The Squaw Man.”
Polish and panache
Many of Seebach’s other specialties – the guillotining of a lad from the audience, the sawing of a woman in half, the transformation of a female helper into a jaguar – are offered here with greater polish and panache than I recall from previous outings.
And the use of not one but two “mis-made maidens,” with portions of one neatly chopped-up lass being exchanged with sections of the other, is a stroke of positive genius.
Furthermore, the flow of the action, thanks to Tracy Friedman’s firm and knowing hand, is inexorable, without the irritating delays and eddies of superfluous patter that sometimes becalm even the best intentioned magicians.
Where the evening suffers is in its effort to be not just a darned good magic show, but a tabloid musical as well.
Seebach, centerpiece of several of the production numbers, dances willingly but not terribly well, proving that sleight of hand is not necessarily accompanied by sleight of leg.
Fortunately, he has some real pros around him, among them June Gracious, Frederick Kronk, Elizabeth Hanley, Michael Ian Lerner, Cathy Shutt and the impish Peggy Peterson. All double as assistants.
Two excellent jugglers, Peter Davison and Kezia Tenenbaum, take over the spotlight briefly.
And Brian Lasser’s original songs, neatly interwoven with the action, give the whole thing a distinctly showbiz air.
Given the necessary polish, “David ‘Seebach’s Wonders of Magic” may well take off in hot pursuit of Doug Henning, David Copperfield et al.
In the meantime, it’s an awful lot of mirth, magic and melody, all wrapped up in a single, made-in Milwaukee package..
Curtain times are 8 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday,
Friday and Saturday; 2 and 8 p.m. Thursday; and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday.