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Monday Night Magic
Photograph: Courtesy Mike Wartell Peter Samelson at Monday Night Magic

The best magic shows in New York City

In magic shows across the city, some of the world's best illusionists help make New York a city of wonders

By Adam Feldman
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UPDATE: Due to efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, all Broadway productions are canceled through at least April 12, 2020. All Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway productions are now canceled as well. If you purchased tickets through broadway.timeout.com, call 1-866-276-4886 for a refund.

We all need a bit of magic in our lives, and New York offers plenty to choose from beyond Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Some of the city's best magic shows are proudly in the old presentational tradition of men in tuxedos with tricks up their sleeves; others are more like Off Broadway shows or immersive theater experiences. When performed well, they welcome you to suspend disbelief in a special zone where skills honed over the course of years meet the element of surprise. Why not allow yourself a few illusions?

Best magic shows in New York

Chamber Magic
Photograph: Courtesy Clay Patrick McBride

1. Chamber Magic

4 out of 5 stars
Theater Circuses & magic Lotte New York Palace, Midtown East
Open run

After more than 15 years at the Waldorf Astoria, Steve Cohen, billed as the Millionaires’ Magician, now conjures his high-class parlor magic in the marble-columned Madison Room at the swank Lotte New York Palace. Audiences must dress to be impressed (cocktail attire is required); tickets start at $100, with an option to pay more for meet-and-greet time and extra tricks with Cohen after the show. But if you've come to see a classic-style magic act, you get what you pay for. Sporting a tuxedo and bright rust hair, the magician delivers routines that he has buffed to a patent-leather gleam: In addition to his signature act—"Think-a-Drink," involving a kettle that pours liquids by request—highlights include a lulu of levitation trick and a card-trick finale that leaves you feeling like, well, a million bucks.

Todd Robbins
Photograph: Courtesy Stevan Keane

2. Speakeasy Magick

Theater Circuses & magic
Open run

The low-key dazzling Speakeasy Magick has moved to a small wood-framed room at Gallow Green, and its dark and noisy new digs suit it well. Hosted by Todd Robbins, the show is a moveable feast of legerdemain; audience members, seated at seven tables, are visited by a series of performers in turn. There are a few brief performances on a makeshift stage, but it’s the highly skilled close-up magic that really leaves you gasping with wonder. Robbins describes this as “magic speed dating.” One might also think of it as tricking: an illusion of intimacy, a satisfying climax, and off they go into the night.

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Dan White
Photograph: Courtesy theory11

3. The Magician

4 out of 5 stars
Theater Circuses & magic The NoMad, Flatiron
Open run

Dan White is something of a local sensation and a regular guest on Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show, and it's not hard to see why. His NoMad Hotel show, which sells out weeks in advance, is an ideal fancy-date night. Handsome and smooth, White offers modern variations on classic routines, blending multiple kinds of magic (mentalism, card tricks, illusionism) into an admirably variegated evening of entertainment. If a few of the effects don't fit the intimacy of the room—when I saw the show, a transformation illusion didn't quite come off—most of the tricks leave you happily agape, especially when performed in such cosy quarters. You'll probably never see a levitation act at such close range, and you may leave feeling a few feet off the ground yourself.

Magic After Hours
Photograph: Courtesy Noah Levine

4. Magic After Hours

4 out of 5 stars
Theater Circuses & magic Tannen's Magic, Midtown West
Open run

Twice a week, after closing time, 20 people crowd into the city’s oldest magic shop, Tannen’s, for a cozy evening of prestidigitation by the young and engaging Noah Levine. The shelves are crammed with quirky devices; there's a file cabinet behind the counter, a mock elephant in the corner and bins of individual trick instructions in plastic covers, like comic books or sheet music. The charm of Levine's show is in how well it fits the environment of this magic-geek chamber of secrets. As he maneuvers cards, eggs, cups and balls with aplomb, he talks shop, larding his patter with tributes to routines like the Stencel Aces and the Vernon Boat Trick—heirlooms of his trade that he gently polishes and displays for our amazement.

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Monday Night Magic
Photograph: Courtesy Michael Wartell

5. Monday Night Magic

Theater Circuses & magic Players Theatre, Greenwich Village
Open run

For more than two decades, this proudly old-school series has offered a different lineup of professional magicians every week: a host, opening acts and a headliner, plus two or three close-up magicians to wow the audience at intermission. Housed for the past seven years at the unprepossessing Players Theatre, it is an heir to the vaudeville tradition. Many of the acts incorporate comedic elements, and audience participation is common. (If you have children, bring them; they make especially adorable assistants.) In contrast to some fancier magic shows, this one feels like comfort food: an all-you-can-eat buffet to which you’re encouraged to return until you’re as stuffed as a hat full of rabbits.

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