Story, photos by Cassie Hepler
Did you know we have a magician scene in Philly? Well, now you do. And these guys have taken street magic to an on-stage performance that will delight and puzzle the mind as well as the eyes.
Barbershop Quartet: A Magic Show at the Society Hill Playhouse was the scene of the crime. No, literally. A lady from the audience stabbed Francis Menotti, the headlining magician. And technically not a quartet, there were five male magicians including John “The Barber” Manski (who was the inspiration behind the name), Dan Hauss, Ran D. Shine and Peter Pitchford.
Menotti’s innovative Scrabble word trick even fooled Penn & Teller on national TV. He was also one of 18 selected speakers for the TEDxPENN conference at the University of Pennsylvania where he shared his unique philosophy on magic and why he believes it is better as entertainment for adults than for children. Menotti is not your conventional magician, which explains his rise in securing premier national appearances on Penn & Teller: Fool Us (which he did), the prestigious Halloween week engagement at Hollywood’s Magic Castle, the last two Presidential inaugurations and others. In fact, Teller remarked that Menotti’s unique style and approach to audiences is, “the future of magic”.
With physician parents and a Penn State degree in advertising and public relations, Menotti’s philosophy is it is all deceiving the public and altering views, which translates over to the magic world.
You might have seen the other guys at the South Street Magic (and Groupon deal floating around online) however Dan Hauss and Francis Menotti were the ones who wrote this show. Each magician has his own feel, flow and vibe. There’s certainly a flavor for everyone.
John “The Barber” Manski opens the show and the on stage barbershop with a little bit of origami telepathy.
He chooses someone from the audience, asks them to think of someone and viola! He has cut up a sweet Elvis snowflake.
Soon he is joined on stage with Dan Hauss in his fancy hat and magical briefcase.
Hauss and member of the audience, Steve, who was a crowd favorite (and also kept his glasses stashed in his sock much to everyone’s delight), was part of this mind reading trick.
Smart men always wear nice shoes! On with the show…
Surely you’ve seen a cup trick before however somehow Hauss makes water disappear and powder form in its place.
No, they are not holding hands. This volunteer from the audience is transferring information to Hauss.
This kid was super excited to be part of the show and wants to be a magician himself someday.
Up next, Peter Pitchford in his Ghostbusters uniform performed impressive rope tricks. Even being in the first row, we couldn’t see any way this was possible.
Manski is back and looking dapper in his suit jacket with black and white Chuck Taylors (Converse) sneakers on his feet.
Steve is back for round two! He’s just a likeable guy as the audience chants “Steve, Steve!”
Pick a hand, any hand! These two share a magical moment together and the outcome is priceless.
Smooth talking magician Ran D. Shine comes out with money magic on his mind.
Somehow he gets an audience member to fork over $50 for a disappearing money trick (and almost got beat up by a South Philly guy in the process). But of course it reappears in the oddest of places.
Pitchford is back in a much better outfit this time in a very dramatic fashion in ode to their card trick magician idol (in frame).
But first, he plays with some balls. White ones, with hand moves like David Bowie in the Labyrinth.
Then cards just begin spitting out his hand involuntarily. A little humor and magic go a long way! Then the grand finale with his lovely lady assistant.
The man with the master plan, Menotti, appears finally. He’s fast talking and highly intelligent and uses both of those to his advantage while performing random acts of magic chaos.
He pulls a victim from the audience and begins an interesting magic trick (we can’t tell you everything)!
Menotti reappears in a hat and a different persona.
And wows the crowd with some parlor tricks to warm them up (or confuse them) especially when he grabs a fake lobster as a telephone and attempts to talk into it.
He pulls another member of the audience on stage and keeps coughing oddly through the act which makes everyone wonder what the hell is going on.
All the sudden he’s falling over with a card stabbed in his back.
Manski comes back as the volunteer tries to run off stage and tells her to get back on stage.
He then has her match the piece of card in her hand to the one stabbed in his back. It’s a perfect match! Soon his quartet is dragging his lifeless body off the stage and the audience is amused, confused and laughing. It was quite a theatrical performance to say the least.
“I treat my audiences with respect and intelligence. We all know that magic is an illusion. So I’m honest with them, treat them like adults and even engage them in the artifice. They’re watching an entertainer perform beyond the limit of what they imagine is humanly achievable,” said Menotti.
He is a “magician for the mind,” said George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones), “Francis was wonderful. It’s nice sometimes to restore ones faith in humanity.”
The gang takes a bow at the end of the show. For over 2 hours of entertainment for $20, we’d say it was a good deal of fun, laughter and entertainment for everyone of all ages.