Magician Stuart MacDonald performs a magic trick as Richard Preston in the online show “Richard Preston’s Cocktail Capers.” [Croswell Opera House image] Hide caption Daily Telegram Special Writer
ADRIAN — Like plenty of other people, I enjoy a good magic show. And I’ve never seen a performance by Adrian’s own Stuart MacDonald that wasn’t thoroughly entertaining, with his particular blend of “how did he DO that?” magic with an onstage persona that really draws you into the action.
But, yes, I wondered how well magic would translate to an online Zoom show, and so I was really interested to be a part of Sunday’s performance of “Richard Preston’s Cocktail Capers,” which MacDonald has created in collaboration with the Croswell Opera House.
And as it turns out, this show’s character-driven format and up-close view of the magic is a fun, creative way to use an online platform for entertainment.
The award-winning MacDonald — whose magic has stumped the likes of Penn and Teller and garnered international acclaim — plays a guy named Richard Preston, a World War II hero who became the world’s greatest magician.
In 1962, with the world at the pivot point of the space race on one hand, and the Cuban Missile Crisis on the other, Richard agreed to be cryogenically frozen so that he could entertain the first Mars colony in 2050.
Well, except that 2020 came along with all its challenges, and the world’s governments decided to thaw Richard out early so that he could entertain people and help them get through this tough time.
The show takes place in Richard’s living room, with its 1960s décor, and he’s an affable, if fish-out-of-water (after all, it may not be 2050, but it’s also not 1962 anymore either) cocktail-party host. If you can put aside the fact you’re watching on Zoom, the end result is fairly close to being one of sitting right there in the room — especially if you have your favorite beverage at hand — as Richard breezily regales you with stories, engages with you by name, tells retro-corny jokes, and does magic tricks for you.
In fact, that whole up-close-and-personal look at his tricks is what really makes the show work. It’s one thing to be sitting in an auditorium and watching a magician up onstage. It’s quite another to see how a trick is done from inches away — and still not be able to figure out how he does it.
WHAT: “Richard Preston’s Cocktail Capers,” a livestreamed, interactive performance by magician Stuart MacDonald via Zoom
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday, Aug. 8; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, Friday, Aug. 14, and Saturday, Aug. 15; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16
HOW TO ORDER: Online at croswell.org. Ticketbuyers will receive a Zoom link and instructions by email prior to the performance
And just as it’s not every day that you get such an intimate view of magic, it’s also not every day that you get to do your own magic trick.
Of course there are a number of audience-participation tricks of the sort where someone is invited, for example, to pick a card which then shows up in an unexpected place (people old enough to remember the original “Let’s Make a Deal” game show will appreciate one particular product placement). But participants are encouraged ahead of time to have a deck of cards handy because MacDonald leads them step by step through a trick.
That’s one of the highlights of the entire production, in fact, because when you’re doing a magic trick yourself and it works but you have no idea how, it’s even more amazing, and much more personal, than just watching the magician do it.
Another couple of tricks in which the entire audience gets to participate, albeit in a different way, involve Richard’s “mind-reading” abilities. In one of them, the first part is a fairly standard “think of a number” trick that isn’t magic per se, but rather hinges simply on the mechanics of how math works. But the second part of the trick introduces some variables, and given that there really IS more than one way to answer the questions involved, it’s fun to see the result.
Doing a show in this format poses a fair number of challenges, obviously. MacDonald needs to keep the flow going and the energy level up, which has to be tough when you’re playing to a camera and can’t be in the same room as your audience (and your audience isn’t even in the same room with each other, unless a whole family is on their couch watching it together). And any show involving audience participation means having to think on your feet, as it certainly did in Sunday’s show.
On the viewers’ end, people are at the mercy of their Internet connections, although mine is far from the greatest and I had no real problems. And you don’t have to be especially Zoom-proficient to take part, for Lori MacDonald leads everyone through a few tips ahead of time in a chatty, personable way.
The whole thing is a very different way to be an audience member, that’s for sure. But if you can’t be sitting in MacDonald’s actual living room having him do magic just for you and a few of your closest friends, this is the next best thing.
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