How Broadway Works: Magic Author Steinmeyer Recalls “The Merlin Crusade”

Inside Magic Image of Doug Henning's MerlinWe received the May edition of Genii today and were delighted to read ’s incredible recollection of the logistics, politics and creative process that went to bring ’s second Broadway show to life.

Mr. Steinmeyer’s “The Crusade” (subtitled, “Doug Henning’s Infamous Magical Musical Appeared 30 Years Ago.  Onstage It Was a Magic Show.  Offstage It Was a Holy War”) is a compelling read.  We could not stop reading once we began.

Yes, we had to apologize to those waiting to use the restroom, but to be fair, providing just two lavatories for a full coach section of a cross-country flight is hardly our fault.

We have two great loves: magic and logistics.  You give us an article about the logistical challenges of creating great illusions for a Broadway show and we give you our undivided attention.  It is an incredibly detailed account of a 24-year-old Mr. Steinmeyer as both participant and observer.  You should subscribe to Genii as a matter of principle but if you have not, get to your local magic shop or the  Genii website to get the May edition.

Mr. Steinmeyer was part of the “magic department” brought to Broadway to seamlessly integrate Mr. Henning’s magic into a complex and challenging musical.

Because the magic was integrated with everything in the show, there wasn’t a repair, a change, or a piece of scenery that didn’t have something to do with a trick.  Each of our changes on the work list was worded, “fix,” or “add,” or “align.”  Because no other department cared to understand the magic, it was the magic department that had to work with everyone else, watching what the painters were doing, seeing if the new pieces of scenery would foul on our illusions.  Each one of these jobs involved standing in front of the prop, scratching your head, experimenting, figuring out how the dancers were doing the routine, and then devising some solution.

You can read about the endless tuning of the show’s story, style and magic right up to its official opening.   The depiction of Mr. Henning is true to our memory of the great magician and truly gentle man.  We were afraid Mr. Steinmeyer was going to share some horrible secret about Mr. Henning; revealing that he was truly a scheming evil man who kicked puppies or stole other magician’s tricks.  We would be left to either hate Mr. Steinmeyer as a liar and evil in his own right, or change our well-ordered universe of good and evil.

Fortunately, Mr. Steinmeyer’s reputation as an honest historian is unchanged and Mr. Henning’s place in our make-shift pantheon is secure.

You can read more about May’s edition of Genii: The Conjurors’ Magazine here.

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