How to Watch The Magic Show, Stephen Schwartz's Other Huge '70s Hit

From the Archives   How to Watch The Magic Show, Stephen Schwartz's Other Huge '70s Hit
The Doug Henning-led musical with a score from the composer of Wicked and Pippin ran for 1,920 performances.

Wicked is still going strong, and Godspell and Pippin both received top-notch revivals in recent years. Even the short-lived Working received a West End production and a cast album last year. But there’s one Stephen Schwartz score that hasn’t been heard on a New York City stage since its original, Tony-nominated run: The Magic Show.

Part book musical and part showcase for magician Doug Henning (who earned a Tony Award nomination), The Magic Show was a one-act musical with a score by Schwartz, book by Bob Randall, and direction by Grover Dale that opened at the Cort Theatre May 28, 1974, and ran for 1,920 performances. It also boasts some of Schwartz’s songs most beloved by cabaret and concert performers, including “Lion Tamer” and “West End Avenue.”

<i>The Magic Show</i> (1974)
The Magic Show (1974) Kenn Duncan/New York Public Library

In it, Henning is brought in to replace an aging magician at a seedy nightclub, shortly before an agent comes to check out rock ‘n’ roll act Donna and Dina. Henning’s assistant, Cal, is in love with him, but as is usually the case, he doesn’t realize his feelings for her until it’s almost too late.

Built around Henning’s illusions (an initial incarnation of the show, called Spellbound, featured a book by David Cronenberg and music by Howard Shore; only Henning’s illusions remained when the show finally opened on Broadway as The Magic Show), a revival is unlikely. But fans of the show and those who are curious to see one of the major hits of the ‘70s are in luck: A 1983 filmed version of it is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, preserving the performances of Henning and Anita Morris, with Didi Conn as Cal. Sadly, “West End Avenue” and the popular “Solid Silver Platform Shoes” didn’t make the final cut. But you can watch Carol Burnett and Cher duet on the latter above!

Flip through photos of the production below:

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