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Column | Caitlin Clark adapts to life in the WNBA
Column | Caitlin Clark adapts to life in the WNBA
By James Carter, Staff Writer • June 20, 2024
Opinion | NHL needs to bring specialty jerseys back
By Jameson Keebler, Senior Staff Columnist • June 19, 2024
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By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 18, 2024

Lee Terbosic conjures the spirit of Harry Houdini in a time-traveling odyssey

The “Harry Houdini Show” poster.
Courtesy of Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
The “Harry Houdini Show” poster.

Magician and comedian Lee Terbosic mystified an audience at Liberty Magic in downtown Pittsburgh with “Lee Terbosic in The Life and Death of Harry Houdini,” a journey through the legendary magician Harry Houdini’s career. The performance commences with a narration that transports the audience to Harry Houdini’s living room in the 1920s. Terbosic breathes life into the story of Houdini through a magical tapestry of comedy, trickery and intimate conversations with the audience with shows from Oct. 25 until Dec. 3.

Lee Terbosic portrays Harry Houdini in the one man show. He said his performance is not just a magic show, but also a fully immersive experience. His show on Halloween coincides with the 96th anniversary of Houdini’s death on Oct. 31, 1926. Terbosic said he structures the performance as though the audience is Houdini’s friend, invited into an evening of illusions and secrets.

“The show is an exploration not only into the life of Harry Houdini, but also the magic and behind-the-scenes of his life,” Terbosic said. “I want you to truly feel what it would be like to see Harry Houdini, and what better way than to have it be done in his living room like he did in Harlem. It all starts the moment you walk in the front door when I have you sign the guest book, and I take you back and keep you in the frame of 1926.” 

Terbosic performed an array of illusions including card tricks, pulling needles out of his throat and telepathy. Several tricks involved awestruck volunteers from the audience. Terbosic said he values taking the legacy of Houdini and transforming it through his performances, like his tribute to Houdini’s death-defying upside-down straitjacket escape in downtown Pittsburgh on the 100th anniversary of the trick’s debut. 

“Being able to take from the past and recreate it from the present and putting it back on display, you realize how fortunate you are in this world of magic,” Terbosic said. “Like ‘Houdini 100’, I saw that image of Harry hanging upside down in a straitjacket in the middle of Pittsburgh and immediately thought to myself, I could do that and replicate that. Not only can I do it, but I can make it really unique and do it on the same day at the same location and at the exact same time as Harry Houdini, but 100 years later.”

Burt Colaianni, an attorney and a dedicated admirer of Lee Terbosic’s craft, said he eagerly anticipated attending the show.

“Lee’s got a great stage presence and he has this great magical aura around him,” Colaianni said. “When I saw him 15 years ago, it resonated enough that when I saw his name at a venue, I immediately said let’s go and watch this because I know this gentleman and I know that he’s going to be really good.” 

Terbosic said he weaves the fabric of imagination into every aspect of his performances. He said his gift for creating magic and capturing the essence of Houdini, once ignited, has continued to burn brightly. 

“Everything you see out there is my imagination all rolled into one night of grand illusion and storytelling,” Terbosic said. “I wrote the entire script that you heard and the voiceover. It’s one of those gifts that I don’t know how to turn off — it was turned on at the age of 10 and hasn’t turned off since.”

Jennifer Colaianni, a Pittsburgh local who attended the show, said she believes the performance would be ideal for a college audience. Colaianni said she felt immersed in the show, especially as Houdini included her as an audience member in his magic tricks. 

“I have a son in college, and if something like this was available to him on a Friday night, he would do it,” Jennifer Colaianni said. “I was part of the show because it’s so interactive and it made me feel cool — when I go to work on Monday, I’m going to tell everybody how I was a part of the magic show and that’s just fun.” 

Terbosic said his mission to embody the iconic Houdini goes beyond mere entertainment —  it’s a profound quest to offer a glimpse into the essence of Houdini’s character to contemporary audiences. 

“When people walk away from the show, they have a better understanding of who Houdini really was, how he cared dearly about his family, neighbors, and his friends,” Terbosic said. 

“I want people to walk away being overwhelmed with the magic that Harry did but also how impressive he was, how clever and how diabolical!”

About the Contributor
Nada Abdulaziz, Senior Staff Writer
Nada Abdulaziz is a senior majoring in Philosophy and Biological Sciences. She loves spending her free time reading, hiking, and watching Studio Ghibli films.