The Hollywood Roosevelt Introduces Clandestine Magic Shows

Courtesy of Theory11
Magician Franco Pascali

Twenty-one-year-old magician Franco Pascali brings magic and mentalism to the historic hotel every weekend.

Finding the entrance to the hidden theater for The Magic Show at The Roosevelt is almost an illusion itself. Tucked behind a staircase and down a long hall, a red velvet curtain hides a secret bookcase. Beyond that is a discreet hallway, all mirrors and red carpet, that leads to an intimate space with a small stage and a mix of tables and sofas.

The 3,000-square-foot theater will look familiar to anyone who went to Beacher's Madhouse, but now it's set for illusion, cardistry and mentalist tricks by 21-year-old Franco Pascali. With only 100 seats, everyone has a good view of the magician. The experience includes a small cocktail menu of magic-themed drinks like the Gambler's Palm (rye whiskey, green chartreuse, sweet vermouth and orange bitters) or the Zarrow Shuffle (gin, vodka, Lillet Blanc and dry vermouth), plus beer, wine and nonalcoholic options. Consider this the next best thing to getting into the Magic Castle.

It's fair to say that we could all use a little more magic in our lives right now, and Pascali brings it with a sense of flair and style that befits his Generation Z stature. Tall and handsome (he's done professional modeling as well), Pascali's jawline is as sharp as the edge of a playing card, his modus operandi. On stage, dressed in all black head-to-toe Gucci, he's relaxed and charming, which might be why it's so easy to believe his brand of illusion.

"Magic often takes advantage of props and staging metal boxes and curtains, which is great. But there's something really interesting about doing magic with a simple and recognizable object, like a deck of cards you can buy at CVS," Pascali says. "You can do really amazing things that make people question whether it's a regular deck of cards. Magic does that."

The show starts with the magician sitting on a stool, his silhouette dark, while a video montage plays in the background. Once it ends, he goes right into intricate cardistry, including juggling, fancy shuffling and other choreographed movements, which is mind-boggling to anyone whose best trick is 52 pickup. This creates a sense of drama, but then he'll break the tension with jokes and every guy-type charm.

For the rest of the show, the audience is as important as his deck of cards. Keeping it super interactive — hard not to with four tables right at the foot of the stage and seating so intimate no one has a chance to hide — he'll choose someone to participate or let people volunteer. At one point, everyone takes part in one trick with props he provides. Pascali keeps the entire room engaged with mental tricks and illusion (no spoilers), but it's safe to say that people are amazed by what he knows, or what they think he knows.

"The best illusions are those that appear to be free will," is all Pascali will say. "Anything that gives off the illusion that you have powers, that you're divining a thought, or manipulating what appears to be reality. Maybe it's something you think is set in stone, but it isn't, and it's not revealed until later."

Born and raised in Glendale, California, Pascali caught the magic bug at a very early age. "Just like any other kid," he remembers. "I saw David Blaine on TV, and next thing I'm begging my mom to take me to a magic shop for however many years after."

By the time he was 13, he was doing sleight of hand and card trickery good enough to land a spot in the Magic Castle's Junior Society. A year later, he performed for the all-ages weekend brunches, doing hundreds of shows by the time he aged out of the program. Since 2017, he has been the director of magic at theory11, a community of magic collaborators that's consulted on projects for Neil Patrick Harris, J.J. Abrams and the Now You See Me franchise. That led to Pascali doing a 26-week live magic tour at iPic theaters all around the country.

"I think people loved it," he recalls. "But when you're in a comfy couch with a blanket and food, you don't always want to participate."

With his first solo residency, Pascali just wants people to have the same feeling at magic shows that they get when seeing their favorite band. "When it comes to music, everybody has their own taste. They know what they like, don't like. It would be beautiful for people to know what kind of magicians they like," he says. "Maybe magic is an art, maybe it's not. You could do a gimmick a thousand times and post the best take online. But when you do things live, it really tests the performer. Being there makes you see if what they're doing is real."

The Magic Show at The Roosevelt runs every Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $89 to $109, depending on seat selection. Find more at themagicshow.com