DISCLOSURE: I have personally known the author over the last 30 years but this review is entirely unbiased.
“No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” --Epictetus
Over twenty years ago, one of my great magician friends told me about an ambitious plan he had devised.
Around that time, several magicians had begun experimenting with one-man shows, likely influenced by the late Ricky Jay who performed his long-running one-man show “Ricky Jay & his 52 Assistants” (1994) in New York.
My friend planned to create his own show too, but with a twist. He proposed to recreate an actual “salon” as popularized in 19th century Europe, and pay homage to his role-model, the great 19th-century magician Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser. This new show began its life titled "Mystery Salon" but was shortly after changed to "Chamber Magic".
The magician’s name is Mr. Steve Cohen and I believe this project served as the starting line to his success.
His public show has been running for nineteen straight years and is consistently sold-out every performance despite the steep ticket price of $125 to $250 per seat. (For the past year, Chamber Magic has been ranked as the #1 show in New York City on the TripAdvisor website, including all Broadway shows.)
As the famous magic writer and chief editor of Genii Magazine, Mr. Richard Kaufman wrote in Genii, “There seems to be a recent outbreak of good magicians performing one-man shows. Anyone doing this in a hotel venue has Steve Cohen to thank, since his Chamber Magic created the modern template.”
Besides his successful show at the famous Lotte New York Palace Hotel and so many TV appearances, he also wrote the best-selling book Win the Crowd (Harper Collins, 2005); he performed his sold-out show Theater of Wonder (2012) at the world-famous Carnegie Hall; he created and starred in a 2 hour TV documentary Lost Magic Decoded (2012) on the History Channel; and he just released his graphic novel, The Millionaires’ Magician. His success is obvious at a glance.
Many magicians, especially those in the younger generation, may say that they want to be like him, but this mission is not so easy. It’s impossible to perfectly recreate what he has accomplished. Some young magicians have made attempts but ultimately took on more than they could handle, creating something that was painful to watch.
If you want to “mine” his performance material from this essay for your own overnight success, unfortunately, this book is the wrong place since that was not the author’s intent.
But there is good news. Steve Cohen finally detailed his real secrets and the “behind the scenes” process about how to create a show from scratch. In other words, this is a documentary written in a simple and honest language, about one serious magician who deeply loves magic, and how he diligently worked to realize his dream over twenty straight years.
I will refrain from revealing any contents from the essay, but you’ll be amazed how much he has poured solid thinking, passion, and heart into his ninety-minute show.
This is not just a short-term or temporary project that enables the performer to brag that he is self-producing a show. It is about a longer-term, lifestyle commitment. Hence, this essay is titled Evergreen, named for the tree that is always in season. These are not cheap tricks.
Even you have no intention to create your own show, you’ll learn a lot from this essay about what it is like to perform in the real world.
(If I may add to his essay, another important factor about Mr. Steve Cohen is this: he effectively focused on building a career before diving into the world of a professional magician. In other words, he is a well-educated person who studied at Cornell University and Waseda University in Japan. I believe his academic career also helped lead him to later success.)
I highly recommend this essay for every serious student of magic (especially if you are a young magician who wants to learn more than the latest card sleight).
If you enjoy this book, I also highly recommend his best-selling book Win the Crowd. This is a book has been translated into six languages for the public, but we magicians can learn a lot, too.