Oct 29, 2023


On the evening of October 19 2013, Ivan Amodei celebrated his 400th show of INTIMATE ILLUSIONS at the uber-posh Beverly Wilshire hotel. Part of the genius of the location is that the magic begins long before the show starts. It starts as you drive past the shops of Rodeo Drive toward the historic hotel and intensifies as you enter its gilded doors and walk past the grand staircase where Richard Gere fell in love with Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. The spell cast by this place is palpable — it’s no accident that the word “glamour” comes from “grimoire,” a book of magical incantations.

Ever since the show opened on December 11, 2010, the magic continues on Friday and Saturday nights in the sumptuous 100-seat room, where the beautiful Irina Chirkova plays Vivaldi on the cello. And the magic builds as Amodei comes out onstage in an Armani tux and Piaciotti shoes — with a bag over his head.
Wait — what?

One of the charming things about Ivan is the way he harnesses the seductive trappings of luxury while not taking himself too seriously. I can imagine unrelieved devotion to elegance by a polished performer with movie-star good looks could come off as too perfect by half. But Ivan is a disarming, likable performer who lets the sumptuous elements work for him without seeming like he has a snobby bone in his body.

He presents himself an immigrant kid who dreamt of putting on a show, and dreamt big. This show is not merely located in old Hollywood, it is old Hollywood. How can you help but get sucked in?

Amodei has a great sense of routining and a relentless desire to find the deeper meaning in his effects. In his water-to-wine routine (which he presented on Arsenio recently), he doesn’t shy away from referencing Jesus and, in fact, builds the themes into a “creation of life” goldfish production, all while keeping a light, elegant tone.

Or consider his presentation of an effect in which he predicts the serial number on a borrowed bill. In some way this effect is terrific, so powerful and so impossible, yet in other ways, it’s not so good — it’s hard to build a routine around it, it lacks suspense and surprise, and it’s so impossible it almost leads to giving away its method by cognitive default. But Amodei builds it into a marvelous routine that taps into the strengths of the effect while avoiding its weaknesses. He makes a big show of the fairness of the bill’s selection and the way it is placed on a thin retractable rod with clip high above a spectator’s head.

He then introduces laminated number cards, using them first to do a spectator divination routine that builds to a Sympathetic card routine. As a kicker, he claims to have predicted the exact order into which the spectator would shuffle the number cards — Amodei pulls out a sealed FedEx envelope from which he unfolds a banner that stretches across the stage, revealing a number — but the number doesn’t match the order of the cards! Only then does our attention turn back to the woman in the audience holding the bill. She reads off the serial number and it matches perfectly. The audience erupts into applause.

The sold-out 400th show milestone was celebrated with champagne and cake after-party.

By Chris Philpott