Poof! An old-school magic show materializes at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret

The word magic often conjures images of beleaguered bunnies, plastic wands and elegant assistants, usually half-dressed and halved in pine boxes. Even with the latest resurgence of magic in popular culture, the tendency is to discard the mysterious art's rich history just as smug, swaggering, sleight-of-hand superstars like David Blaine and Criss Angel eschew the vintage "magician" moniker for more dashing job descriptions such as "illusionist" and "escapologist."

Fortunately, on Friday nights in Denver, Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret (1601 Arapahoe) is keeping the golden age's spirit alive with an impressive new show known as Magic Underground.

Denver's first regular, consistent house-o-magic since the sixties is hosted by veteran magicians Professor Phelyx and Chad Allen. They're joined onstage by their non-magician co-host, Vegas, who performs an uproarious parody of eyebrow-cocked narcissist David Copperfield and his hyper-dramatized vanishing acts.

Lannie's, known for its entertaining burlesque shows and eclectic musical acts, is the perfect setting for this new production. Descending down into the intimate, Parisian-esque space, you're transported to an earlier, red-velvety, chandeliered time -- and that's exactly the point.

I've seen Magic Underground three weeks in a row, including last Friday night, and every time it was different -- each a unique blend of mind-blowing magic, sexy burlesque and sharp comedy. (And by sharp, I mean machete-juggling on a unicycle). Phelyx's signature effect of literally bending stainless steel forks, spoons, keys, and coins -- with his mind -- is nothing short of sorcery. Chad Allen, who, to most of the audience's shocked surprise, is actually blind, ventures even further into the impossible, with a legerdemain that's fittingly -- and flawlessly -- quicker than the eye.

Smoking-hot assistants and sultry aerial acts by a gravity-defying "Midnite Martini" raise the blood pressure during this hour-plus-long homage to a mostly ignored, though undeniably cool, era. A constantly rotating cast of guest magicians and national variety acts (including the crazy cycling knife juggler) help keep it all novel and worth revisiting.

The first recorded evidence of magic dates back almost 5,000 years ago. A guy by the name of Dedi devised a little trick he used to keep King Cheops entertained. Ostensibly, he would decapitate an ox, then reattach its head and reanimate him moments later. Magic Underground doesn't quite take you that far back in time, or decorum, but its classic vaudevillian charm seems just about as far away from the bombastic, self-indulgent offerings of the craft's prosaic, present-day pop stars.

Magic Underground gets underway tonight at 11 p.m. Admission is $10, and there's a full bar and menu available. Click here or phone 303-293-0075 for details.

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