Original Stage Manager”Merlin” Script with Notes

The following script excerpts comes courtesy of John Harrison, author of the excellent biography “Spellbound: The Wonder-Filled Life of Doug Henning.” I’ll be posting it over the next couple of days, but rather than talk about the script myself, I’ll let John explain it further.  “It is Act I, Scene 6 (the final act prior…

The Merlin Understudy that Never Was

The above picture is of Doug with actor Andrew Hill Newman. If history had operated accordingly, Andrew was to have been the first understudy to take over Doug’s role in “Merlin.” However, many of you don’t need this website to tell you that “Merlin” was a somewhat tumultuous production with many ups and downs. Many…

Rare Peter Cunningham “Merlin” Photo

The photograph featured below was taken by well known theater and music photographer Peter Cunningham, and features a stunning image from “Merlin” that I’ve never seen before.  As related to me by its owner Michelle Ainsworth, the photo was purchased from Cunningham himself, and was one of the first times he had photographed a Broadway…

“Merlin” Illusion Breakdown Sheet

Today’s post is a doozy, as it’s not often we get to see the actual illusion breakdown from “Merlin.” The document itself gives us a good idea of the order of the illusions themselves, and just how many there were within the show itself. Now, obviously I had to some redacting in the “How” column….

Handwritten “Merlin” Monthly Expenditure Notes

Money, money, money! It makes the world go round doesn’t it?  The notes featured below list the general costs and supplies that went into producing “Merlin” per month. While $421.74 may not seem like much now for a Broadway show, in 2019 dollars that equals to $1116.84 per month.  Unfortunately, not everything can be conjured…

1983 “Merlin” Animal Breakdown Sheet

If yesterday weren’t enough for you feast your eyes on this detailed breakdown sheet of how the animals in “Merlin” were positioned and used. It really brings you a whole new appreciation to see the level of care and preparation that goes, and still goes into, the usage of magic and animals on stage. Enjoy!…

Original “Merlin” Dressing Notes

“Spellbound” author John Harrison was kind enough to share with me some truly eye-opening items from his Henning collection. If you ever wondered how complex “Merlin” was to put on every night, just look at this “Dressers’  Notes” sheet. This document, and a few you’ll see throughout the week will give you a fascinating window…

ebay Week: Rarely seen Doug and Chita Rivera “Merlin” Photo

Now we’ve all seen pictures of Doug and Chita Rivera in their “Merlin” costumes. However, I gravitated to this one because of its natural and over all congenial tone between the two stars. I’m guessing this was taken at the premiere of “Merlin” (correct me if I’m wrong), and it shows a bit of a…

Chita Rivera on Merlin Mishaps

As I sit looking out my window on a rainy day in LA, what better time to have a laugh than Chita Rivera recounting a very unintentional and comic moment from”Merlin?” You don’t really hear Chita Rivera talking about “Merlin” much these days. So ,it’s nice to hear this anecdote and see some rare pictures…

Complete Merlin Video Recording

While “Merlin” may not exist as a proper cast album or have a professional video recording, there are “other” less magical copies out there if you know where to look.  Case in point, no one would claim that this recording that recently sprung up on You Tube is of the highest quality. But, it gives…

“Merlin” Cast and Crew Opening Night Statue

This item is something I have never seen before and is probably one of the more rare items in conjunction with “Merlin.” It was apparently given to cast and crew opening night as a gift for their hard work and dedication. Past that I don’t know much about it. Neither does its owner. Without a…

Doug, Chita Rivera, and Mary Martin!

Special Thanks to Ken McCreedy for this rare “meeting of the minds”picture that not many people have probably seen from the time of “Merlin!” Be sure to donate to my Indiegogo campaign for my feature length documentary “Doug Henning’s Magical World.” To view the trailer and contribute please visit: https://bit.ly/2zqM9eY

“Merlin” Golden Key Chain Ticket

As it’s been a while since we’ve talked about “Merlin” on the site, I figured what better time than with today’s post. This commemorative key chain ticket was part of a package deal that you could get along with an expanded program (for an extra charge of course.) That expanded program was featured on the…

Steve Cohen Remembers

Steve Cohen of  “Chamber Magic” at “The Lotte New York Palace” reached out to me recently with his fond remembrance of the profound impact Doug had on him at a young age. Take it away Steve! “Hi Neil, I was going through some old files and found an autographed Doug Henning photo from the early…

Jim Steinmeyer Interview: Part Four (Revisited)

The closing part of our interview with Jim covers an interesting, overlooked, and ultimately bittersweet time in the life of Doug. After retreating from the spotlight for many years, Doug had returned to Los Angeles with a seemingly renewed sense of vigor and love of magic. What this may or may not have lead to…

Jim Steinmeyer Interview: Part Three (Revisited)

What was your reaction the news that he was retiring from magic? It was a really difficult situation…We had wind of it. Doug was spending a lot of time with TM stuff…and we had no idea what would happen to the company…Doug would go “No, no, no I’m really working.” He was kind of sending…

Jim Steinmeyer Interview: Part 2 (Revisited)

What were your impressions of Doug’s as a person? The thing about it was that that was 100% him. He didn’t come offstage and put on a three-piece suit, put his feet up, smoke cigars, and say “Hey, what do you think of this hippy look? What do you think I should be doing?” There…

The $1,000,000 Illusion

As we close out the week, I wanted to showcase the “1,000,000” illusion from Doug’s penultimate special “Magic on Broadway.” The special itself, shot at the time of “Merlin,” serves as a kind of greatest hits special sprinkled with new takes on old illusions and a myriad of special guests.  Reuniting with Doug on stage…

Al Hirschfeld Meet Doug Henning

This New York Times article was conducted for the opening of “Merlin.” It’s a great read as you would expect, however the highlight is surely the Al Hirschfeld drawing that opens it. Doug was no stranger to Hirschfeld’s famed pen and pencil after having been previously featured in Hirschfeld’s art for “The Magic Show.” In fact,…

Original Merlin Playbill

Today’s entry comes courtesy of Nancy Henning, and is the original “Playbill” for “Merlin.” A few weeks back, I was fortunate enough to post the more elaborate commemorative program for the show, and it’s interesting to compare and contrast the two. However, in addition to being signed by Doug himself, this “Playbill” also is a…

Merlin Commemorative Program: Part 3

A fun fact that some people may or may not know, is that nestled in the production bios are the writers of “Merlin” Richard Levinson and William Link. Now these names might not mean much to you, but their creations certainly will. Link and Levinson were the creators of the popular mystery shows “Columbo” and…

Merlin Commemorative Program

So, it’s not often that you’re able to present something as great as this! As it turns out, during the original production of “Merlin” a special and commemorative program was offered for sale. This was in addition to the standard Playbill that everyone received as they entered the theater.  So, as the program itself is…

Henning in High School

You may have to squint your eyes a little, the above  article comes from the Oakville Trafalgar High School’s 75th Anniversary commemorative newspaper. Doug, in preparations for “Merlin” at the time, speaks fondly of his formative years in high school and what they meant to him.  While he wasn’t able to attend the reunion that…

Crystal Box Illusion with Ann Reinking

For all those looking for a little pep to their Wednesday afternoon check out this clip from Doug’s 1983 NBC special “Magic on Broadway.” This special, made during preparations for “Merlin,” is a lot of fun and worth checking out if you can locate a copy. In fact, you might even want to check out…

Nancy Henning Interview: Part Four

Hasn’t this been great? Before we start the last part of our interview I just wanted to once again thank Nancy Henning for taking the time to talk to me. I think we can all agree that her insights and observations only serve to make us appreciate Doug’s artistry even more. How do you think…

NY Times “Merlin” Interview: Part 3

FOR HIM, MAGIC IS MORE THAN TRICKS By GLENN COLLINS Published: February 13, 1983 Television newsmen have tried to bribe Mr. Henning’s stagehands – unsuccessfully – to learn his secrets. ”I could patent the illusions,” he said, ”but then anyone could find out how it’s done.” Instead, through the years, the hundreds of people who…

NY Times 1983 “Merlin” Interview: Part 2

FOR HIM, MAGIC IS MORE THAN TRICKS By GLENN COLLINS Published: February 13, 1983 Some of the ”Merlin” magic, like the horse and rider that vanish in midair, or the monster robot that mysteriously comes to life on stage, is new. Other illusions are updated variants of necromantic classics, like the elegant disappearing-duck stunt, based…

Doug and The Washington Post: Part Three

“The Spellbound World of Doug Henning” By Richard Harrington June 9, 1982 The Heir to Houdini Henning is spending this week at Merriweather Post Pavilion with one of the last road shows he’ll be doing for a while. All his time and energy are going into “Merlin,” which he describes as a 6-year-old project about…

Doug and The Washington Post

I just came across this treat of a “Washington Post” interview I think everyone will enjoy. It was published on June 9, 1982 and takes place right before Doug was winding down touring to concentrate on the creation of “Merlin.” Compared to other interviews I’ve read it really delves deeply into Doug’s thoughts on the…