'Ariann Black: Secrets'

Magician Ariann Black tells audiences that when she was a child, her mom took her to a store to buy her first magic trick. The man behind the counter said, "Magic is for boys, not girls. Why don't you buy your girl a nice doll?"

So sexist it was. And now we know what he should have said instead:

"You know little girl, there are way, way more magicians in this world than there are illusions for us to perform. We all do the same stuff! But it's a boys club, so you just might be the one who could do something different with it."

Since then, many women have tried. But few have expanded the vocabulary beyond the addition of fishnets and killer abs. Alas, Black is no exception in "Secrets," her modest showcase at the Westin Casuarina.

The boutique property is classier than the Fitzgeralds lounge, where Black did an earlier version of "Secrets" in 2003. She since has opened shows for The Amazing Johnathan and worked as a specialty act in "Splash," from which she saved some costumes and recycled them for this venture.

The "Let's put on a show" work ethic on display here is more impressive than the actual content. This is gender-neutral advice I have offered before and probably will again: If you're a newbie to "Vegas-style" stage magic, this should fit the bill. If you're ready for the next level, it will seem quite familiar.

(The letter grade also takes into account that while Black's and other little shows occupy almost a separate tier of local entertainment, they technically compete with the big stuff ).

"Secrets" doesn't limit itself to close-up magic such as Black's card manipulation, an amazing, sleeves-rolled-back display of the hand being quicker than the eye. There also are illusions you would see in a bigger production, including a "death trap" that nearly bumps the ceiling of a 10-foot stage intended more for corporate meetings.

The show is trying to do so much in this limited environment, the secrets of some illusions are at risk.

"Secrets" also gives you several numbers from a trio of dancers -- Kendra Phillips, Lorie Huff and Brandy Lee -- which add still more Vegas-style production value within family-friendly boundaries.

The dancers usually perform between the illusions and are seldom woven into them, with a salute to the many-armed Hindu goddess Kali a noteworthy exception. When they do get involved, they are choreographed exactly as they would be with a male magician.

For one illusion in particular, known in the trade as "Interlude," this creates a gay subtext, via some gentle caresses before Lee appears to pass through Black's body. Kinda hot for the straight-male demo. And the only new wrinkle on the usual display of doves, linking rings, bisecting boxes and levitations.

Black ties it all together with a polished narrative riffing on the "Secrets" theme. And while she's very charming, the small crowd on this night needed her to be a little less mannered, a little more in their face.

The man behind the magic counter would have found her very well behaved. But in this man's town, a gal's gotta do what a gal's gotta do.

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


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