Theater Preview: THE MAGIC PARLOUR AT HOME (New Virtual Show by Chicago’s Dennis Watkins)

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by Tony Frankel and Lawrence Bommer on June 25, 2020

in Theater-Chicago,Virtual


Is stuff magical only because it can’t be explained? Perhaps it’s more than just the absence of logic, probability, or reason. There’s a presence too: Magic evokes a child-like sense of wonder in the oldest adults, rewarding their imagination more than their ignorance. At least that’s the working philosophy of House Theatre’s master magician Dennis Watkins, a third-generation practitioner. His awesome 90-minute solo show The Magic Parlour (see Stage and Cinema‘s review) has graced Chicago’s Palmer House for almost a decade. Sparking amazement beyond any “smoke and mirrors” trickery, this tour-d’illusion, comprising mentalism and sleight of hand, is a labor of love passed on from a prestidigitating past. It’s also an intimate showcase for one trickster’s glorious deceptions.

Now that theaters have shut down into 2021, Watkins is taking his magic online for a completely new virtual offering dubbed The Magic Parlour at Home. The new virtual magic show, designed for group viewings, will offer multiple performances every Friday and Saturday evening through August, 2020. After the phenomenal success of livestreams hosted on The Magic Parlour’s Facebook page, Watkins created this new show with interactive magic and mindreading available directly on your screen. If you don’t believe this is possible, know that the hottest live-streaming theater in the country right now is an online magic show from Los Angeles: The Present at the Geffen.

Watkins is a highly charismatic performer, an unrivaled magician, and just a hell of a lot of fun. It all goes back to Watkins’ grandfather. This wizard manipulator of playing cards taught Dennis that the best magic is up close and personal, played to a room of no more than 40 folks–just like this one-act. He argued: “If you put someone inside of a box and cut them in half, people rarely believe that it is magic. But, if you can tear up their dollar bill and restore it right under their nose, or look into their mind and read their thoughts, or create any number of miracles inches in front of their eye, that is an experience they will never forget.”

“During this time, I’ve learned to adapt my craft to be able to virtually perform the same caliber of magic my guests have come to expect from my performances at the Palmer House,” said Watkins. “The new acts I’ve created for The Magic Parlour at Home will provide a truly engaging and participatory magical experience for my virtual audience.”


Tickets can be purchased online at The Magic Parlour. A maximum of 30 tickets will be sold for each performance and each ticket will admit one “household” or up to 10 guests on one screen. All performances will take place via Zoom and require a computer with a functioning camera and microphone to participate as well as a high-speed internet connection. After tickets are purchased, patrons will receive an email containing instructions and a link to access the performance.

Guests ages 12 and up are welcome to join, while guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. For a fully immersive experience, guests are recommended to sport cocktail attire and bring their own deck of cards.

photos of Watkins by Rich Hein
behind the scenes photo by Dennis Watkins

The Magic Parlour at Home
runs through July 31, 2020
EXTENDED to August 29, 2020
EXTENDED to September 25, 2020
EXTENDED to February, 2021
for tickets, visit The Magic Parlour

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