Marvyn’s Magic Theater

This Halloween (2019) I was honored to perform during the grand opening week of Marvyn’s Magic Theater, the magnificent new magic venue in the desert town of La Quinta in California.

The proliferation of intimate and well-equipped magic venues is an exciting development for magicians and magic lovers. Public expectations of magic have changed dramatically recently due to the way magic is currently being presented on television. Shows like America’s Got Talent, Penn & Teller: Fool Us, and Masters of Illusion are all doing a great job exciting lay audiences about the more intimate forms of magic. These new magic venues are supplying a live experience that nicely complements the magic currently being seen on the small screen.

The Big Daddy of all magic locations is the venerable Magic Castle in Hollywood, which has always understood the power of presenting a multifaceted approach to enjoying the delights of close-up, parlor, and stage magic. It is safe to say that the Castle is currently enjoying a golden era in its 50 plus years of presenting magic as an art form. The Castle has the natural benefits of containing many small showrooms and performance areas that allow a visitor to forget precisely how big a venue it is. When Caesars Palace launched its ultimately unsuccessful Magic Empire in 1996, they missed the “scale thing” totally, and the size of the location did not work well with the intimacy of the dining and performance areas. It was a great idea that never really caught fire with the general public.

Now let’s get back to La Quinta and Marvyn’s Magic Theater and discuss how they got it right. Along with Nashville’s House Of Cards and The Chicago Magic Lounge, I believe we are looking at the templates for the next stage in the future of magic. First and foremost, the heart of Marvyn’s success is the experience and skills that producer and director of entertainment Jeff Hobson has brought to the table. A veteran of almost every kind of performance venue, Jeff is one of magic’s funniest and most skilled performers. What is abundantly clear after working a week at Marvyn’s is whether Hobson was performing in a Vegas casino, a small comedy club, or a massive theater he was making a mental note of how things should be done. As Jeff says, “I created the theater to be a place I would’ve wanted to perform in if I were still traveling on the road as a magician.” 

Marvyn’s Magic Theater came into being as a result of the combined efforts of Jeff Hobson and Gary Bueller. Born in Sacramento, Gary is a successful businessman with a lifelong interest in magic. Bueller was one of the founders of A1-MultiMedia, which eventually became A1-MagicMedia, that along with L&L Publishing, launched the beginning of the magic video lecture business. For over 12 years, Gary repeatedly told Hobson that if he wanted to open a magic room that he would be there to back and support him. One day, after falling in love with the La Quinta community,  Jeff said, “Yes.” That was the official launch of Marvyn’s. It was only later that the pair decided to personalize the venture and attach the name Marvyn as a tribute to the great magician Marvyn Roy or as he is known worldwide, Mr. Electric.

If there is anything worth doing in magic Marvyn Roy has done it; at 94 years of age, he is one of magic’s greatest icons. Now living in the La Quinta area, Marvyn is one of the most influential and inspirational magicians the magic world has known. I well remember my wife and I enjoyed a post-show breakfast at Denny’s with Marvyn and his partner Carol back in 1974. I was an unknown 22-year-old magician from England who had only seen Marvyn & Carol on television specials, and they extended a warm camaraderie that was accompanied by some inspirational and life-changing advice.

A location for the Magic Theater was selected, and in 2018 Gary and Jeff began to construct the perfect place for magicians to display their craft. Of course, nothing proceeds perfectly smoothly in a venture like this, and both the budget and construction time of the club expanded dramatically due to their commitment not to cut any corners. During my stay in La Quinta, I spent a delightful evening smoking Davidoff cigars with Jeff and Gary, hearing the full story of the creation of the club. I had to smile when Bueller explained that he could either have bought a yacht or build the club and that the theater was his yacht. In fact, he could probably have bought a couple of yachts, but for the sake of magic, I am delighted he chose this path!

Let me now tell you a little bit about the way Marvyn’s Magic Theater turned out and what to expect if you get to visit it. The decision was made not to house a restaurant inside the club, and it was a good one as there are half a dozen superb dining locations located within a few blocks of the venue. The focus of the theater is the showroom and the beautiful bar and piano bar located front of house. I really like the modern, clean design of the entire establishment. There isn’t that dark wood and red curtain Victorian feel that is so often a feature of magic venues. Everything inside the club is modern and aesthetically pleasing. The entrance and lobby of the theater resemble a bustling little magic shop—the kind that has almost disappeared in this day and age. When you arrive at Marvyn’s, a tuxedo-clad Hobson and his charming wife Yvonne welcome you. Yvonne is a large part of what makes things run smoothly at Marvyn’s; both Jeff and Yvonne put in very long days making sure things run efficiently and seemingly effortlessly. When your reservation is confirmed, there is now the matter of actually entering the club. Come on, you know there is something special waiting to happen here!

Once the guests are ready to leave the lobby of Marvyn’s, Hobson ushers several of the group into a high-tech looking “illusion cabinet” situated against the wall. The rest of their party watch as they visibly appear to dematerialize and gradually disappear from view. The remainder of the group can video these proceedings on their phones, making a great souvenir of the visit. It is a very cool prelude to the evening; the illusion was created by Kerry Pollack, and built by Bill Smith. The remainder of the group then requests to be allowed to enter through the “Green Door.” As they enter the club, the “dematerialized” members of the party are waiting there to greet them. It is a simple and very effective procedure that sets the tone of the evening even before it begins.

The main bar is elegant, with plenty of comfortable tables to enjoy a pre-show cocktail. There is also a central area set up as a piano bar, and resting on the piano is a large close-up mat that allows for a combination of music and magic to entertain guests before and after the theater show. Marvyn’s features either a pianist or a guitarist serving double duty as a magical performer in a very effective manner. When I worked the grand opening week, I was delighted to discover that my old friend Andrew Goldenhersh was featured in this capacity. Andrew is not only an incredible magician but also an outstanding guitarist. His hybrid performance did a great job of bookending the stage show.

If you are not familiar with Goldenhersh, his magic is fresh and original and always has a powerful impact on the audience. After demonstrating his musical talents, Andrew performs a short set that features a masterful ring off rope routine involving a velvet rope and borrowed finger ring. By the time he closes out the routine with a definitive version of Ring Flight, the audience is thoroughly entertained and ready for the next stage of their magical event. After the stage presentation, Andrew performs another musical/close-up melange that features probably the finest needle swallowing and threading routine in the magic world. Goldenhersh is a wonderful asset to the club, and his contribution to the evening was a delightful experience. Informal and personable the quality of Andrew’s work made him one of the real gems that the evening offered.

Let me take a moment to mention the magic video montages that Hobson has created that are as a significant visual element playing on screens in the bar area. When the theater doors open, the video entertainment continues on a large screen situated above the stage. Very fittingly, the video entertainment ends with a segment featuring Marvyn and Carol Roy performing their legendary Mr. Electric show. The footage does a great job demonstrating why they have chosen to use Marvyn as an integral element at the heart of the club. It was an intriguing and very successful decision to personalize the nature of the club rather than use magic as a generic source of interest.

As I mentioned previously, it was evident to any working performer how carefully Hobson had drawn from his personal experience to maximize the impact of the club. Nowhere is Jeff’s influence more evident than in the physical construction of the actual showroom. The 129 seat theater is a room specifically designed for watching a magic show. Every one of the comfortable theater seats commands a perfect view of the stage. The sound and lighting are exceptional, and a two-person technical team ensures that the performing experience is ideal for both audience and performer. Backstage is as carefully designed as the front of house and contains two comfortable and well-equipped dressing rooms. Each dressing room includes a nicely stocked refrigerator, a monitor to the onstage action, and its own bathroom. I have worked in many full-sized Performing Arts Centers that can’t begin to rival the backstage environment at Marvyn’s. As a performer, it is always nice to realize that the management is as thoughtful about the performer’s environment as it is to the audience’s needs.

The theater show ran approximately 80 minutes and consisted of an opening act performing for 15 minutes, the headliner doing 45/50 minutes, and the MC tying everything together. I was working with the world-class juggler Romano Frediani. Romano electrified the crowd with his high speed and dynamic performance; this came as no surprise as this talented performer hails from one of Europe’s most distinguished families of variety entertainers. Romano is the eighth generation of the legendary Frediani family, who are considered royalty within the performing word; Romano’s father was Nino Frediani, whose high energy juggling became a worldwide sensation. Romano now performs his father’s act, and it fits him like a glove. Jeff Hobson hosted and MC’d our show, and as always, he charmed the crowd, getting big laughs while performing some great magic. Nobody can win over an audience faster than Hobson, and his participation as the host is an integral part of the success of the show.

I confidently predict that Marvyn’s Magic Theater is going to be a big hit. The attention to detail in the club, combined with the strong line up of performers, will ensure that audiences are enjoying some of the best variety entertainment available. The audiences’ enthusiastic reactions throughout the week leave me confident that Marvyn’s Magic Theater is a winner, and going to be around for the long haul. To check out upcoming bookings, and other show details go to their website      www.marvynsmagictheater.com  

Andrew Goldenhersh

Romano Frediani

Nick and Jeff

Main Bar

Front of House


The Main Showroom


 

~ by Nick Lewin on December 27, 2019.

2 Responses to “Marvyn’s Magic Theater”

  1. Thank you Nick for the update and insight of this new magic venue.
    It looks like a great deal of thought and work went into this nightclub and I believe it will be a success! My only concern is that it WAS STEVEN’S MAGIC that was the “FIRST” to launce magic videos in 1982, NOT A-1 and L & L!!! Everyone seems to get it WRONG! Those guys you mentioned came “YEARS” LATER!
    Funny how everyone gets this “WRONG!”

  2. Well as I said, they were all really at the beginning and pioneers at the time. My memory is obviously faulty as I remember L & L the most distinctly from those days!

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