Magic of Paris

Stefane Vanel’s Magic of Paris is an hourlong confection of a variety show. The Frenchman makes balls, coins and cards appear, reappear, float, flutter and dance in his hands. An endless snowfall of confetti rushes up from his hand and out across the crowd, where it drifts in a beam of stage light. A table levitates. A girl vanishes.

This is classic legerdemain, but it requires skill and practice to pull off with panache. It no doubt helped that Vanel spent time modeling underwear for Gaultier. He uses his trained grace and natural good looks to charm rather than to seduce the crowd, despite all the places he could take his act with bikini briefs in his résumé.

In between Vanel’s carefully crafted pieces, a balloon-swallowing burlesque-style comic did a clean and funny bit, a puppeteer used a marionette to sketch a tender story, and a pair of dancers who double as assistants showed off their frilly undies. These were enjoyable diversions and made nice palate cleansers in between card and coin tricks.

Magic of Paris moonlights in the Anthony Cools Showroom, a small candy box of a theater. The venue is wedged in a corner near the airport shuttle pickup zone and feels like a borrowed storeroom. (For example, audience members have to walk past a disused snack machine.) The setting amplifies the need to fill it with something light, sweet and frivolous. Vanel did just that.

Time-wise, Magic of Paris lasts just long enough; it feels as if Vanel has run through his best work. The tall, square-jawed Parisian’s good looks, gentle grace and precision won over a full house. When Vanel bid his final adieu, the audience’s praise extended to a standing ovation. (4 and 6 p.m. Tue-Sun, $30-$45, 252-7776.)



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