The Gustafsons

Mar15 cover

One of the pleasures of living in the Philadelphia area is the opportunity to frequently meet and enjoy the company of Dick and Joanne Gustafson, two of the most talented and busy magical entertainers in the country. They are a fixture at monthly meetings of James C. Wobensmith Assembly 4, where they unselfishly give of their time and talent to teach magic, discuss stage deportment and presentation, and help members improve their magic.

Giving unselfishly to improve magic is nothing new to Gustafson, who served as national president of the S.A.M. in 1973/74. Prior to that, he was editor of M-U-M, where he applied his considerable creative talents. Locally, he has served as president of Assembly 4 and I.B.M. Ring 6.

Another benefit of living near this talented couple is the opportunity to see their annual Amazing World of Magic illusion show, which has appeared at the Broadway Theatre in Pitman, New Jersey, for the past five years. For those of us who missed seeing Blackstone Sr. or Thurston, it’s an opportunity to enjoy a classic two-hour illusion show in a fully restored, 1,000-seat vaudeville theater that has operated continuously since it opened in May 1926.
This latest version utilized more than five tons of props, including fourteen illusions drawn from their warehouse. As in years past, they filled the theater over the busy holiday season, performing two shows daily from December 26-29. The show was a traditional mix of flashy illusions and intimate “in-one” presentations that are the gems of their act developed over the past forty-eight years.

After sitting through a rousing overture, the curtains parted to reveal Gustafson, who warmly welcomed the audience, many of them youngsters witnessing such a show for the first time. With a clap of his hands an assistant wheeled an empty animal cage toward the footlights. A touch of a match and the interior burst into flames; the cage was quickly covered with a large foulard. Gustafson whisked it away to reveal Jenna Pastuszek, one of the lovely assistants on the show.

Just as quickly, a large paper-sided box was placed center stage; a light bulb on the end of an electric cord was dropped into the box and carried around the outside, illuminating all aspects. Suddenly a shadowy hand appeared inside the formerly empty box; then Lori Reed, another capable assistant, made her appearance, bursting through the paper.

From stage left came a box decorated to appear like a medieval castle with pennants flying. Swords and a giant flagstaff were thrust through the empty castle; the swords were removed, and Kelly Boeckle, another talented member of the cast, was produced.
The whirlwind opening ended with the Crystal Casket, in which an empty, glass-lined trunk was constructed onstage and covered with a beautiful silk. The audience gasped and applauded as Lori appeared from the casket.

As the applause died down, the curtains closed and Gustafson went into his unique presentation of Kirby the Kard-Catching Kobra. No one gets more out of the Snake Basket than Gustafson, who has a member of the audience select a card that is tossed, along with the rest of the deck, into Kirby’s straw basket. Donning an elaborate white-and-bejeweled turban and playing a kazoo, Gustafson plays while Kirby works furiously (to the delight of the children) to find the chosen card, all the while tossing cards out of the basket and littering the stage. After one mistake, he rises from the basket with the chosen card in his fangs. Click here to Join the S.A.M.

Mar15 toc