SOUTH SALT LAKE — In lieu of a more traditional theatrical show this January, the Utah Children’s Theatre’s season schedule includes 90 minutes of magic performed by CJ Walker in The Magic Show (not to be confused with the 1974 Stephen Schwartz musical of the same name). According to the short biography published on the theater’s website, Walker has graced stages in over 10 different countries, even getting to show off his skills on a Las Vegas stage. In this performance geared toward young audiences, Walker combines magic, comedy, and showmanship as he entertains both the intended youth audience and their adult chaperones. If you have an elementary school child with a penchant for magic, this is an excellent show to attend.
First, I appreciated the simple set, uncredited because there was no provided program. Elegant blue fabric hung from the center of the ceiling and draped out to each side of the stage, and a collection of disco balls provided a whimsical effect on the painted stage. Walker had preset two small tables with some of the props he would use throughout the show, which caused my ten-year-old guest to wonder aloud what tricks might be in store. Each element of the set design combined to increase my anticipation of the planned show.
This attention to detail continued through the routines Walker had prepared for the performance. I enjoyed how each short segment revolved around a theme, and I had an up-close opportunity to appreciate how Walker involved the audience when my son volunteered me to participate on stage. Nearly every segment included elements designed to elicit laughter, such as the open-lidded toilet upon which I was invited to sit during my personal foray into the act.
At times Walker chose to play the role of teacher, allowing the magic to take a backseat to the education of his captive collection of students. At one point, he explained to the elementary-aged audience that magic is really just science and taking a moment to shoot styrofoam cups off the top of audience members using a homemade air cannon. Walker was also very knowledgeable regarding famous pioneers of magic and included brief history lessons with many of his tricks. The details included in his history of Harry Houdini added depth to the artistry he performed on stage.
I was also pleased with Walker’s preparation. With the assistance of his wife, Aurora Walker, the magician moved seamlessly from trick to trick without needing to pause to set up. Most of his routines were set to music, which added excitement and helped Walker maintain a consistent pace throughout each mini-routine. I particularly enjoyed the variety of styles Walker displayed including some traditional magic, card tricks, and a montage of conjuring he learned in China.
I do have to mention, however, that despite his preparation and general polish, Walker did appear to legitimately forget to conclude one of his tricks, leaving a female audience member without the ring she had volunteered for an earlier trick. At first, it seemed that perhaps “forgetting” was a part of the act, but when he did finally come back on stage, he admitted to having forgotten the trick. Although this did not take away from my overall experience, it is certainly a mistake Walker should take caution not to repeat.
The overall brevity of the performance combined with the variety of material included in each set makes CJ Walker’s magic show ideal for its intended audience. Not only is it entertaining for the elementary aged children in the audience, but Walker adds in just enough humor to keep the adults engaged as well. If you are looking for a fun family activity or something different for a child’s party, The Magic Show may be the perfect destination.