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The Magic Show (1983)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Musical | 3 March 1983 (Canada)
A young magician with an unorthodox look and style's first big break is threatened by a villainous rival.


Norman Campbell


Bob Randall (book), Jerry Ross (screenplay)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Doug Henning Doug Henning ... Doug
Didi Conn ... Cal
Jon Finlayson Jon Finlayson ... Van Zyskin
Jack Creley ... Shumway
Sandee Currie ... Donna
Taborah Johnson ... Dina
Anita Morris ... Charmin
Paul Soles Paul Soles ... Manny
Paul Dorsey Paul Dorsey ... Barney
Paul Gordon Paul Gordon ... Steve
Barnie Wood Barnie Wood ... Mike
Aaron Ferguson Aaron Ferguson ... 9 Year Old Boy
Eric Richard Eric Richard ... 8 Year Old Boy
Les Rubie Les Rubie ... Stage Doorman
Hadley Kay Hadley Kay ... Boy in Audience


At the nightclub Chez Manny, a new young magician, Doug, and his assistant, Cal, are hired as the headline act. Unlike the washed up no talent, Van Zyskin with his cliché style, Doug is an young ingénue with long hair and casual clothes, but with amazing talent. With the rumor of an important producer coming to see the show, the jealous Van Zyskin is determined not be overshadowed by the young upstart. He plans to steal Doug's secrets and undermine his young rival's confidence despite what unappreciated protection that Cal can provide. Can Doug keep true to himself and his art and appreciate his gifts despite what the villain plans? The result are certain to be magical. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Musical


Not Rated






Release Date:

3 March 1983 (Canada) See more »


Box Office


CAD4,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



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Did You Know?


Jon Finlayson as Van Zyskind was a last minute replacement for Ron Moody. See more »

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User Reviews

His Old Tricks
7 August 2001 | by NJMoonSee all my reviews

Let's face facts, fans. The original Broadway production of A MAGIC SHOW was no LES MIS - in fact, it was no PIPPIN or GODSPELL either. But Stephen Schwartz's music and Doug Henning's "denim Dunninger" were new enough in 1974 to be a fun evening at the theatre, especially with orchestra seats priced well under $15. The show even outlasted Henning ("and JOE, our magic man...") and toured extensively.

Filmed in 1981 in Canada, this MAGIC SHOW bears little resemblance to the musical that entranced thousands on Broadway, despite the fact that the essential elements are all basically the same. Cosmetic changes seem to have been made to keep the show fresh - but to no avail. For instance, why change the location from The Passaic Top Hat to Chez Manny (a supposedly seedy club that looks like the set for a cheesy 80's sitcom)? The visiting producer Goldfarb is now named Shumway and the washed up magician Feldman in now called Van Zyskind (or something like that). But these matter very little in light of the more drastic musical and magical alterations. Only half the original score remains, with WEST END AVENUE and GOLDFARB VARIATIONS completely gone and CHARMIN'S LAMENT totally re-written. The new songs are usually lead ins to Doug's new (and bigger) tricks - an elephant, a motorcycle and a huge game of Mouse Trap don't add much spectacle in light David Copperfield's recent accomplishments.

THE MAGIC SHOW is at it's most charming when Doug is doing his staple tricks for the real audience, especially Houdini's metamorphosis. Didi Conn is the right type for Cal, except that she can barely sing the simple songs she's given. Pity, since her "Lion Tamer" is the show's signature. Besides preserving the late Henning's act it is also notable for (the also late) Anita Morris' appearance as the conjured cutie Charmin. Although she spends much of the show bi-sected, Morris is a joy to watch.

All in all, this MAGIC SHOW is better than nothing but strictly fan material. Let the few "magical" moments rekindle memories of the Broadway incarnation and try to ignore the rest.

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