Friday night marked the first "First Friday" by Smerlin Entertainment at the Magic Theater and Whisky Row Lofts, showing that the collaboration of businesses near the arena is really helping to revitalize downtown.
Whisky Row is the name given to the district that once served as the center of Kentucky's bourbon industry. The buildings on Main St between first and second street are home to a vareity of housing and restaurant/bars. Some of the buildings were slated for demolition but saved by a diverse group of developers with help from Mayor Fischer.
The Magic Theater was built in 1985 by Larry Jones, who performed his one man show there for 15 years. Two of his children partnered with Bill Weyland and City Properties to renovate the theater, resulting in one of the most beautiful intimate theaters in Louisville. A gallery has been opened across the hall, run by the Kentucky School of the Arts. Apartments are above the performance and visual art spaces.
The visual and performance art combination combined with catered beverages from Troll Pub made this a fantastic First Friday event. Smerlin Entertainment's headliner for this month was international comedian/magician/speaker Francis Menotti. Menotti amused four audiences at just $10 a ticket and everyone felt like they got their money's worth.
Menotti has performed all over, including at Obama's inauguration. He has a unique approach to his act, charmimg audience members with his quick wit and quicker hands. For example, he presented the razor blade on a string routine (where a magician swallows blades and string, then regurgitates the blades tied onto the string)in a unique way that must cause jealousy amongst magicians everywhere. He announced that he would let the audience in on what happens by strapping a large video "x-ray" screen to his chest, which showed the blades hitting his stomach and tiny construction workers tying the blades to the string.
Thanks to advertisement and Darshwood the Conjuror's clever magic on the trolley hop, the last show had a crowd waiting at the door. Smerlin Entertainment plans to have several shows at every First Friday trolley hop, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Each month will feature a different headliner.
Photo: Francis Menotti strikes a pose between shows.