Jay Alexander’s Marrakech Magic Theater.

San Francisco: to be honest nobody really needs another reason to plan a trip to the City where Tony Bennett and so many others have already left their hearts. However, I am going to give you just one more really great reason. This is the latest in my series about great magic venues in America.

In the heart of the City by the Bay is a wonderful new magic attraction that I think you are going to really enjoy hearing about and want to visit.  San Francisco has a charm all of its own, but Jay Alexander’s Marrakech Magic Theater has added an entirely new level and dimension to it with the magical experience that his new and unique immersive theatrical event offers. With seven shows a week (soon to be eight) the Marrakech experience is the only multi-night magic event in San Francisco, and with its instantaneous critical and commercial success, you can be sure it will be around for the long haul.

Before I walk you through an evening at the Marrakech, I want to spend a couple of paragraphs talking about its creator and star Jay Alexander.  Jay is one of the most successful corporate and society magical entertainers in America whose high-energy blend of magic and mentalism has placed him at the pinnacle of his profession both artistically and commercially. He is the “go-to” guy for America’s top corporate buyers and bookers.

Alexander was born in Houston, Texas and from the age of 11 to 18 developed and honed his skills as a magician and performer. At age 18 Jay graduated high school, and a couple of days later was on a plane to California where he attended the prestigious San Francisco Art Institute. The Art Institute was the perfect place to fine-tune the artistic vision and sense of design that was already beginning to shape his magical vision. Upon arriving in the San Francisco, Jay took his magic to the streets, and the famous Pier 39 location, as he continued to develop the distinctive high-energy skills, and longhaired Rock and Roll persona that continues to define him today.

Jay became a favorite performer at Bill Graham’s legendary Fillmore West and other music venues, where he entertained the elite of the music world including such iconic rock and rollers as the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Fleetwood Mac, and U2. Alexander then quickly became a busy corporate performer in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley area with the help of these ultra-hip credentials. A really unique and giving person, Jay is the perfect epitome of the smart and skilled contemporary performer. Everywhere he travels to perform his shows the audiences are massively entertained not only by Jay Alexander but magic itself as an art form.

So what was it that caused Alexander to decide to open a magic theater when his performing schedule is already packed with enough corporate dates to exhaust the average performer? “The Marrakech Magic Theater is part of a long-term dream in how to deliver a fully thought out magical experience that communicates with people on a highly personal level,” says Jay. “It was a chance to get somewhere totally different in my career and really explore the art of performance. I wanted it to be elegant and fun.” When Jay hits a roadblock in any of his artistic plans he asks himself a simple question, “What would Walt Disney do?” and “What would Richard Branson do?” This approach seems to be working out just fine so far.

A significant part of the appeal to the Marrakech Theater is in the physical presence of the venue itself; situated at 419 O’Farrell Street (just off Union Square), the theater has a fascinating history that has stamped its own personality on the historic building. The two rooms that comprise the theater are situated in the basement of a splendid Moroccan restaurant–the first such restaurant in the United States. The building is an architectural masterpiece and in an earlier incarnation was a notorious speakeasy. Entering the theater you take two steps off the street and are transported into another world.

An evening at the Marrakech Magic Theater is very definitely an evening with Jay Alexander, who is waiting to seat the guests as they enter the 45-seat Oasis lounge that is the gateway to the main showroom. Delicious appetizers and exotic specialty cocktails are available for pre-show consumption in the lounge by the guests. The walls of the establishment are a veritable museum of magical posters and memorabilia from Jay’s collection.  As is every other element of the experience, the exhibits are geared to appeal as much to a lay audience as it is to magicians. 

The theater is filled with tributes, not just to the famous historical magicians who are regularly showcased in these kinds of establishments; there is the culturally fascinating and somewhat obscure, Henry Box Brown, who used magic to escape from the bonds of slavery. Not familiar with Mr. Brown’s story? Google him and you will unfold a fascinating tale! Also featured in the displays are exhibits of some prominent entertainers such as Woody Allen, Johnny Carson, and Steve Martin, whose interest and history in magic is often a revelation to those with just a casual interest in the magical arts; these exhibits on the walls are accompanied by informative museum-style plaques penned by magical experts such as Jim Steinmeyer.

The magic theme has been incorporated seamlessly into every aspect of the experience in the Oasis lounge, and even the drink coasters are mini-visual illusions that further the attendee’s immersion into the magical theme. With 45 guests sitting at small tables waiting to enter the formal showroom it is the perfect opportunity to introduce the first official magic performance into the proceedings. Alexander himself performs an hour of close-up magic before the doors swing open to the main event. With his larger than life performing style, Jay performs his own high-energy brand of in your face magic. Rather than go for a table-hopping approach to his sleight of hand work, Jay uses his unique personality to perform a show that is as much street magic as it is formal close-up. He plays it really big, and in doing so causes the separate guests to coalesce into one big party for the 60 minutes prior to showtime.  In this way even before the official show is begun the audience is already having a blast, getting to know each other and having fun. This is no throw away element in the event and to see how effective Jay’s handling of this particular format is, just check out the rave reviews for the Marrakech on Yelp and Travel Advisor. 

No matter how effective the magical atmosphere and pre-show festivities are in setting the stage for what follows, they are not going to amount to much without a main event that really hits the jackpot. Quite simply Jay knocks the ball out of the park with his 75-minute “Mind Tricks Live” show that lies at the heart of the Marrakech experience.  If you have never seen Jay’s incredible blend of mentalism, mind games and comedic entertainment then be prepared to watch a master at work. As a performer who regularly entertains huge audiences, and in major theaters, it is a rare treat to experience Jay’s talent in such intimate circumstances. Over the years the show has become so polished that it now allows Jay to improvise and ad-lib to devastating effect. Some of Alexander’s approach to the standard art of Q &A is so fresh and effective it may take away the breath of veteran mentalists. While I could try and paint a picture of what he physically does, I can’t hope to capture the impact of the way Alexander emotionally and existentially connects with his audiences. Is he playing games, reading minds or doing both? The crowds are never really sure and quickly cease to worry about definitions as they jump onboard the runaway express that is a performance by Jay Alexander. This guy is a force of nature and one of the very few magical entertainers who never fail to receive a standing ovation at the conclusion of their shows. 

I am very impressed by the systematic way Jay has created a magical experience that perfectly showcases his specific skills. Many a magic venue has floundered by assuming that the general public’s interest in magic is greater than it is and that every non-magician has a deep and profound fascination in Houdini! For every Magic Castle, there are quite literally hundreds of magical “start-ups” that have quickly wound down.  Jay Alexander has created a magical event built on a previous club started in this space by Peter Morrison, that quite simply works and delivers the goods. The closest experience I can think of is Warren Gibson’s wildly popular “Warren and Annabelle’s” magic venue in Maui, Hawaii. Interestingly enough both ventures are based on the initial willingness of the creator/stars to invest an enormous amount of their energy and time as the centerpieces of their own productions. I believe this intrinsic understanding of their own personal strengths and appeal as performers has a tremendous amount to do with the success of their ventures.

I asked Alexander how he managed to not only launch his new Magic Theater but also continue a successful separate corporate career that is expanding rather than contracting in the face of his new theatrical commitment.  Jay replied with a laugh, “ I get up early, and work hard and late!” This simple philosophy may be a huge part of his success, and people who want to be millionaires on minimum wage ethics generally fall by the wayside fairly quickly. As a long time fan of Jay, I fully expect this latest venture to continue on the successful path on which it has begun. I strongly recommend you spend an evening at The Marrakech Magic Theater, settle back for an unforgettable evening in the hands of a master entertainer and entrepreneur, and enjoy the experience! You can find full details and you’re your tickets for the event at www.sanfranciscomagictheater.com 


 

 

~ by Nick Lewin on January 3, 2020.

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