Murray keeps laughs coming along with magic staples


Magicians dressing weird? It's kind of their thing. If the tricks are mostly the same, at least the clothes are different.

From Siegfried & Roy making epaulettes a Vegas fashion accessory to Mac King's plaid bumpkin suit, groovy threads are so routine for magicians that David Copperfield's gimmick is not to have a gimmick; he's a rebel for dressing like a normal guy his age.

For Murray (Sawchuck), it's not so much the shiny blue suit (itself revealed in a magic trick, one of several outfits he sports within a single hour) as the designer glasses and the bleached hair tortured vertical. The look is good for repeated jokes - "If Lady Gaga and Andy Warhol had a baby, this is it" - as well as T-shirt designs, should you care to buy one after the show.

And for Murray, a savvy manipulator of the reality-TV era, identity has been key to getting people's attention and sticking in their minds. After so many seasons of "America's Got Talent," visual aids do help identify anyone who has been on the show since Leonid the Magnificent.

It also helps amid the clutter of the Strip, because you see I've written about 150 words here and not yet talked about the magic part of Murray's magic show. His new showcase in the Laugh Factory at the Tropicana turns out to be solid, just not as distinctive as his look.

But it is a great fit for the comedy club. Seldom do you see a little show that is sensitive to its environment, rather than trying to ignore it.

Murray's great idea is to ramp out the comedy club's regular stage to a circular extension surrounded by the audience. Murray doesn't stick to just close-up parlor tricks, but mixes in a couple of Vegas-style cabinet illusions. So squeezing the lovely Chloe Louise into the usual contraptions takes on a new interest from this "in the round" perspective.

Most of the act is standard for the cruise ship model of comedy magic. Murray keeps the laughs coming at a steady pace between his running banter and visual gags. Magic staples - such as throwing a pack of cards in the air and skewering just the right one with a sword - become the frameworks for jokey routines that are all about the getting there.

Still, you may leave feeling like knowing this Murray guy is an illusion in itself. He's at the center of attention without being the consistent, fully realized comic persona of King or the Amazing Johnathan, the two local standard bearers for this kind of showcase.

Murray is twice spelled by his onstage sidekick, "Lefty" (Douglas Leferovich), which turns out to be once too many when Lefty's impressive card manipulation is followed by a birthday party standard known in the trade as the "zombie ball."

Even with two Lefty breaks and the cabinet illusions, the hour stalls before ramping up to the finale of another well-rendered standard, the "substitution trunk" switch, and the long-delayed payoff of a volunteer from early in the show finally getting his shoe back.

You could argue that Murray is better at playing the reality-TV fame game than he is at being an innovative magician. My only comeback would be that whatever gets 'em in the door is what it takes these days, and if you aren't overly familiar with magic shows (like I am) you won't be disappointed.

Plus, I would argue that it's better to see Murray than one of the "Real Housewives" attempting magic.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.