4 Stars! The grand opening of the Rhapsody Theater in Chicago’s historic Rogers Park neighborhood was held to great fanfare on Tuesday, June 21st, coinciding with the first day of summer. Formerly the Mayne Stage, this theater, built in 1912, has now become the city’s newest destination for magic, music, cabaret, and dance. The managing partner and artistic director of the theater is Northwestern University medical professor and magician Dr. Ricardo T. Rosenkrantz, whose vision it was to rehab and repurpose this intimate venue.
With people starved for live entertainment (especially since COVID), his goal is to bring in highly praised traveling acts from all across the country, designed to amuse and tantalize an audience. In the face of competition with more modern forms of entertainment, his reimagined nostalgia for simpler, better times is bound to be a winner. The shows will be a throwback to those featured over 100 years ago, prior to television and social media and before the advent of talking movies. Not unlike the vaudeville circuit of the past, the diverse lineup of shows will wow people with their charms.
Speaking of charms, award-winning magician Carisa Hendrix (stage name: Miss Lucy Darling) is the premiere headliner from now through July 16th. Her show “Indulgence” features magic acts taken from her Las Vegas show. Sassy, sultry, and cheeky, she is smart as a whip in exchanging witticisms with her audience, especially with the men in the first and second rows. The references to alcohol and sexual innuendo (e.g., cherries) are prominent in her flirtatious magic and lighthearted comedy; a lot of this will go over the heads of young children who may be present in the audience (and that is a good thing). The show begins with a random fanning through of a large book containing all sorts of recipes for mixed drinks; and through some mystical power, she is able to create three alcoholic beverages out of one container. There is also a trick, much like a shell game, when she asks a random audience member whether the cherry is located under the cup of the martini shaker—and, if not, where is it? There is a gag where she asks “Who is your favorite wizard?”—and Harry Potter is apparently the right answer. I really loved the part where she changes clothes behind a screen, with one dress more glittery than the next. For me, the least interesting segment has to do with the matchboxes and the room keys. But the showstopper is her very last trick, where she plays with volume and dimension and creates whiskey bottles and half-filled glasses, seemingly out of thin air. The finale, in and of itself, is worth the price of admission.
Darling explains that it takes one year to master six illusions. I didn’t count whether her show consisted of six acts all together, just that it (and the cocktails) flowed very nicely. The curtain on the stage was occasionally drawn to reveal a larger set, while at other moments, she appeared in front of it. Apparently, her assistant Kyle is the one who moves parts of the set around between her featured tricks.
In this 200-seat venue, there is not one bad seat in the house, so the magic can be witnessed very easily. Unfortunately, the sound could have been a bit better. Darling’s accent seems like a hodgepodge of Eastern European (think Zsa Zsa Gabor) and French (think Leslie Caron), and I clearly missed a few words while she was performing some portions of her magic. But hearing every single word is not essential, because the proof is in her slight-of-hand, not in exactly what she says! When one of the men in the audience was brought up onto the stage and a hand-held microphone was used, the sound was absolutely perfect. I felt that a boom microphone hanging from the top of the stage would have helped, since Darling’s very tight clothing plus her costume change would have made using a lavalier microphone very difficult, if not impossible.
In all, we watch Darling stage her tricks of the trade with rapt attention. Her show is highly captivating in large part because she beautifully combines her magic with delightful improvisational comedy. This fun, indulgent, and provocative performance is well worth seeing and makes for a pleasant evening of entertainment.
“Lucy Darling: Indulgence” is playing at the Rhapsody Theater, 1328 Morse Avenue, Chicago, through July 16, 2022.
Tickets: $35-$75, depending on seat location and date of performance, subject to change.
Thursdays – 8:00 p.m.
Fridays – 7:30 and 10:00 p.m.
Saturdays – 3:00, 7:00, and 9:30 p.m.
For more information and to purchase tickets, please go to: https://rhapsodytheater.thundertix.com/events/199808?page=1.
Note that upcoming shows this summer at the Rhapsody Theater will feature the psychic Ross Johnson, Spanish magician Jandro, and the magic artist Zabrecky.