Doug Henning - The Magic Show


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This 1981 filmed version of the highly successful Broadway play The Magic Show brings magical illusions as well as engaging music to the story of a talented young magician Doug (Doug Henning) using his magic for "good" over the villainous "evil" magic performed by the dastardly Van Zyskind. The music and magic presented here highlight a dazzling display of wizardry by Doug Henning, who triumphs in the end to the delight of all.

Opening in 1974 at the Cort Theatre, The Magic Show enjoyed a four and a half-year run on Broadway with 1859 (or 1920 depending on which source you read) performances, followed by a several year long tour of it in several cities around the world. This musical featured Doug Henning's magic, Stephen Schwartz's songs, and a book by Bob Randall. Audiences loved the show and Doug was nominated for a Tony award for his performance.

The audience may notice that Henning doesn't sing. Back when the show was created, the writers faced a serious challenge--designing a musical around a leading player who couldn't carry a tune. So they wove the plot such that the other cast members presented the musical side of the show. Twenty-five-year-old Stephen Schwartz wrote a dozen numbers, eleven of which are recorded on a cast album CD.

For the Canadian show in 1981 (which was filmed for TV and appears here in this post), the screenplay adjusted for the times and circumstances of television. Schwartz rewrote several songs for a younger and more varied audience, leaving out his popular piece "West End Avenue" that was very "New York," replacing it with a more universal "Where Did the Magic Go." He swapped "Solid Silver Platform Shoes (the shoes were no longer popular in the 80's) with a more contemporary rock song "It's Gonna Take a Magician," altered the risqué lyrics of Carmin's Lament, and swapped the original song for the antagonists with another whose lyrics introduce Doug's escape trick.

This is the only version of one of Broadway's most beloved and longest-running musicals and captures the legendary talents of Doug Henning, Anita Morris, and Didi Conn at their best.