By the time I arrived the lobby of The Gladstone Hotel was packed full of murmuring people in winter coats waiting to be let into the Ballroom. Mysterion The Mind Reader was making us wait, either due to technical difficulties, or just for suspense. I squeezed my way into the building and found a small spot to stand.
It was only 6:30 and I'd never heard of Mysterion before, but when you get a best-bet in eye magazine with a photo such as Mysterion did this week, it must be hard to keep folks away. Can't imagine the burlesque dancers were hurting his popularity either.
The main attraction for me was going to be the mentalism. Sexy ladies stripping down to their panties and pasties are one thing, but if a guy can bend a fork with his mind, or trick me into picking the right card out of a deck, that's really something.
And he did just that. After pacing back and forth on the edge of the stage for a minute Mysterion The Mind Reader extended a steady, pointed finger directly in my direction and called me to the stage, which was astounding because I'd been secretly hoping that he'd call me up since I found out about the show on Thursday. Secretly because I really didn't want to be made a fool in front of a lot of people. Or even very few people.
He did make a couple of cracks about my weak mind, but that was just so that his mind would appear all the more powerful. He flipped through a deck of cards in front of me, without looking, and asked me to remember any specific card that I might have seen. Then he had me remember a second one, and after swinging a pendant in front of my eyes he asked me, "Was one of the cards a Six of Hearts?" I thought it had been a Six of Diamonds, but with the pendant swinging in front of me, the pressure of being on stage and the unflinching gaze of a man known as Mysterion distracting me, I simply said "Yep." Because I knew he was right. Then he asked, "And was the other one the Jack of Spades?"
"That's right." I said, and was certain.
And that's how the show went. Mysterion would command a volunteer to come up to the stage and he would read their mind or influence their minds, or bend a fork with his mind, or withstand the pounding of nails into his nostrils with his mind, or do something else with his mind which would shock and/or amaze us.
And though his delivery was sometimes weak, and I wondered if the people in the back could ever hear his unamplified voice clearly, his whole routine was thoroughly entertaining. Not least of all because of the vaudevillian back and forth between himself and his Wolfman cohort.
"Wolfman, you look a little bloated tonight, are you feeling all right?" asks Mysterion during a delay in the proceedings.
"Oh yes Mysterion, I'm all right, just a little full after dinner." responds the simple-minded werewolf in the blue jeans and white runners
"Oh? What did you have?"
"Well, I went to a german restaurant and I started out by having a frankfurter. Then I had a hamburger. And then a teacher from berlin and a nice couple from munich. That's like five people, so I'm pretty stuffed now!"
In between Mysterion's demonstrations of his powerful brain we were subjected to a series of burlesque performances by some of Toronto's curviest coquettes. Sadly, out of about five dancers only two stood out as being sexy or talented. The star of the burlesque portion was the "Bride of Mysterion" Penny Whistleton, a very busty and healthy looking woman with a very decent understanding of the drama and sense of humour which makes burlesque so much more than a strip-tease.
In Penny's first act she started out dressed as a wooden puppet in a suit. Mysterion inserted a large coin into her back and wound her up, but after a moment with no movement, gave up and walked off stage. But then, the music began - "Coin Operated Boy" - and Penny began to dance. It was a pinochio sort of dance, a little jerky and clumsy and nicely pantomimed. Near the middle of the song there was something about how the Coin Operated Boy has no heart, doesn't kiss back and so on, and so Penny became depressed and hung her clothes up on the screen divider at the back of the stage. After sulking for a moment Penny got an idea and ran around behind the screen. There was some commotion and the appearence of rummaging, and after some clever redressing Penny returned to the stage with a new, mysterious dance partner. She had put one hand through one sleeve of the suit jacket and tucked the other sleeve into the waist band of her underwear. She'd stuffed the pants with something and connected them to the jacket, and she danced with herself most convincingly. It was delightful really.
But the other dancers just didn't seem to have the confidence, or the schtick to entertain. They were attractive enough, and showed plenty of skin, but their routines were little more than hip swivels and breast jiggles as they sauntered around the stage in a costume themed with the music.
Now, the highlight of the magic show was to be a demonstration of a classic parlour seance, complete with ouija board, table levitation and a ghostly apparition. But due to the requirement of almost total darkness during these proceedings what the audience got was a lot of straining to see in the dark while Mysterion grunted and moaned questions to the spirits which may, or may not, have been present. The participants sitting around the table, all dancers from the burlesque, were clearly in on most of the demonstration, as their stiff performances suggested. Finally, the climax of the seance demonstration failed to be reached, as the ghostly apparation seemed to be suffering from a bout of stage fright. After countless minutes of Mysterion calling out for the spirit to "Show yourself!", the lights came up and an announcer informed us that the ghost would not be appearing due to technical difficulties. A shame.
Overall however, Mysterion's evening of magic tricks at The Historic Gladstone Hotel was quite compelling and genuinely entertaining. The Wolfman, and Mysterion's own pompous personality and flirtatious ways added so much to the mentalism, and though the Burlesque dancers weren't the most erotic little things on the planet, they did break up what would have been a repetitive series of volunteers getting on stage, being properly perplexed, then excused once again.
So I highly recommend heading to The Poor Alex Theatre on February 3rd to see Mysterion perform once again. I'm not sure if there'll be dancers or not, but I do know that the equally charismatic and mentally powerful musician Wax Mannequin will be performing that night as well. And he's always worth admission and at least two beers.
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