Tag Archives: Harry Houdini

The Handcuff King

7 Mar

Literary Review of Canada

Can there really be an untold story of the great Harry Houdini?

Believe it or not … yes.

The Metamorphosis: The Apprenticeship of Harry Houdini, by Bruce MacNab (Goose Lane), follows the early career of Harry Houdini and his young bride, Bess, during their second year of marriage as they make their mark (or not) with the Marco Magic Company, touring through Atlantic Canada during the summer of 1896. As the book’s foreword by Patrick Culliton points out, “The time in Houdini’s life when he was finding his way as a performer, the years 1891-1899, generally receive minimal coverage, despite the fact that they are among the most interesting years of a most interesting life.”

Until now.

But, does MacNab really reveal all? What skeletons, if any, does he unearth as he peers into the past of these struggling artists? Can there really be that much more on Houdini after hundreds of biographies?


Maybe this will sway you – one way or the other: David Ben, artistic director of Magicana, has penned a review, “The Handcuff King” for the Literary Review of Canada which has just been released (March 2012: Vol. 21, No. 2, p. 27). According to Ben: “Part biography, part travelogue, part magic book, Bruce MacNab’s The Metamorphosis: The Apprenticeship of Harry Houdini follows the exploits of Houdini as he laid the groundwork for becoming a 20th-century icon.”

Track down your copy of the Literary Review of Canada and find out what Ben has to say about MacNab’s first stab at magic history, story telling and ghost chasing the great Harry Houdini.

Before he disappears….

27 Aug

Kelly Wong as Harry Houdini in Ragtime. Photo by David Cooper.

As September approaches, it is time to catch up on those things we didn’t quite get to during the summer. High on David Ben’s list (David is the Artistic Director of Magicana) is seeing Ragtime at the Shaw Festival.

Though David is a huge fan of the original work, having seen it at its world premiere in Toronto some years ago, he is an even greater fan of the musical as developed and presented by the magical team at the Shaw Festival.

David had a first-hand glimpse during pre-produciton as he was retained to coach Kelly Wong, the actor who plays “Houdini”, prepare for the role. Jackie Maxwell, director of Ragtime, expanded Houdini’s role for this particular production, and it pays off in spades.

Kelly approached Houdini with the same sort of dedication and focus that the master mystifier would have displayed himself. Kelly was given several challenging tasks including escaping from a straight jacket while hanging upside-down, while singing – something that not even Houdini had the courage to attempt (singing, that is!).

All in all, Ragtime is truly an ensemble piece presented by some of the finest actors, musicians and designers, and in one of the most beautiful settings – Niagara-on-the-Lake – anywhere in the world.

Be sure to catch Ragtime, before it disappears!

Shaw Festival 2012


FESTIVAL THEATRE | April 10 – October 14
@Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON

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