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Off Broadway

A Regular Little Houdini: Three Tall Amazements, But Little Else

A Regular Little Houdini: Three Tall Amazements, But Little Else
I really wanted to like this. A story that revolves around a kid in the coastal town of Newport, South Wales, obsessed with performing magic and the magnificent Harry Houdini, how could that not be at least fun. With a few magic tricks specifically created for the show by two magicians: Adrian Solar and Tom Silburn, how could that not be fun? So to say the least, writer and performer, Daniel Llewelyn-Williams (West End’s 39 Steps), has a very appealing wide-eyed presence and a quality that makes you want him to succeed. He’s a charmer of a man and performer, making him a better story teller than a writer. When he gets into the meat of a really good tale, and there are a few in A Regular Little Houdini, currently be presented at 59E59 Theaters, we are drawn in and held in an exciting state of suspense waiting to hear the outcome of his tales, but the bigger picture, as directed by Josh Richards (Rosebud – The Lives of orson Welles) lacks focus and dynamic tension from start to finish.
Daniel LLewelyn-Williams in A REGULAR LITTLE HOUDINI. All photos by Sheri Bankes.
The stage is bare besides the suitcase Llewelyn-Williams carries in with him. The lighting is simple but generally effective as the story jumps from persona to persona. A greater focus on dynamic visuals or projections might have helped draw us into this tale, but the show itself feels unfocused in overarching theme and purpose. It takes a good amount of time to get to the first compelling tale of adventure, with a great deal of meandering. I found myself lost in the direction of this story at certain moments during this 85 minute one-man show, especially when he told the fantastical tale revolving around his grandfather. There is a fire in his belly when he talks about his father and his grandfather, but I still wasn’t quite sure how we got into a tale involving a Cyclops, and what the purpose of it was, beyond a boy’s worshipping of his elders. Only later did I see the loose connection, and I’m not sure it was enough of a loop beyond the obvious.
But when Llewelyn-Williams has a truly captivating yarn to tell, and he has three; his first ‘amazement’ revolving around the Newport Transporter Bridge, Houdini’s 1913 leap from the Newport Bridge, manacled, into the River Usk, and the docks disaster that happened in this Welsh town, he has us fully engaged.The last two are true stories that you can also read about in the program, but I suggest only reading them post show because almost all the thrills of the story will be told in the program. I had a hard time visualizing the last one, the horrific sounding tragedy of the Newport Docks Disaster, but the emotional impact is strong and effective. He sure can pull you in when the narrative is there, but work needs to be done to weave these components into a solid coming of age story. And more magic, much more magic is needed, literally and figuratively speaking.
The ending, something I generally hate to discuss in my review, is a bit confusing and disappointing. Without saying too much, there is a flutter and a pop, but it’s definitely not what we were hoping for as vague as that sounds. I guess I expected something magical and surprising in every aspect of the word, something very Houdini-like from this tenacious man, something brave and exciting, a grand flourish, but what we are given is only pedestrian and much less than what was hoped for. With a flip from the magician’s cape, the dreams of this young man, desperate for escape from the brutal Welsh working-class reality stumbles to its conclusion.
Daniel LLewelyn-Williams in A REGULAR LITTLE HOUDINI. All photos by Sheri Bankes.
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Off Broadway

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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