It may be hard to believe that one of Reno’s finest entertainment venues is located in a strip mall next to a grocery store. But those of us who have made it to The Theatre at 505 Keystone Ave. know it’s true. What’s even more remarkable is that the sets, technical design, lighting, costumes and more are handled primarily by just two people.

Purchased by high school pals Kevin Jeffrey and Gus Caruso—or Kevin and Caruso—in 2018, the theater space had already lived several lives: first, as a movie theater (where many longtime locals first saw movies the likes of Star Wars),then as a nightclub, and a home for the Truckee Meadows Community College performing arts department. When TMCC pulled up stakes, the space fell into disrepair and played home to squatters.

At about that time, Kevin and Caruso had returned home to Reno after years spent on the road performing their signature brand of dazzling illusions in casinos and on cruise ships—part of an act that came complete with breathtaking special effects and impressive choreography from showgirls in eye-popping costumes.

The two had high hopes for bringing that show home to Reno. So it was kismet that Kevin drove past the shopping center where a “for lease” sign hung outside the dilapidated theater. Despite its rough appearance, the space had everything they needed, including apartments on the top floor where the two men could live. They leased the building and got to work making plans for a renovation so they could open their show.

Then along came COVID, not only halting all live entertainment for nearly a year, but also disrupting the construction industry and supply chain so much that the men realized they’d have to sit on the project for a year—paying rent on a space that would make no money—before anyone qualified could come renovate the place. So the two took matters into their own hands, painting, hanging curtains, and mounting lights and equipment. Caruso himself stitched, by hand, the dozens of spectacular costumes they and their seven showgirls would wear. And Kevin studied YouTube to learn how to fully automate the show; it took him 400 hours to program nearly 1,800 light cues into a laptop computer.

By August 2021, they were able to open Magique on time, with only themselves, their showgirl dancers, and a single stagehand running the show.

What makes the story even more impressive, however, is the show’s quality—which is, in a word, outstanding.

While Kevin plays the default role of host/emcee—sharing back stories, joking and interacting with the audience between and during tricks—Caruso is a darker, more mysterious magical figure. The illusions—which range from a simple card trick to levitation, cutting a woman in half and vanishing acts—are extraordinary on their own, but Kevin and Caruso transform them into far more. The show incorporates pyrotechnics (not for the faint of heart), laser light shows, house music with supremely danceable beats, and engrossing choreography performed by dancers so talented they can execute it all while wearing 3-foot-tall headdresses.

PHOTO COURTESY OF KEVIN AND CARUSO: While Kevin plays the default role of host/emcee, Caruso is a darker, more mysterious magical figure.

It’s nothing short of a slick, Las Vegas-quality show with top-notch production value that pulls no punches and does nothing halfway. In fact, it’s an exact replica of what Kevin and Caruso toured with for years when they had lots more manpower and a much bigger backstage.

Magique has definitely cast a spell on locals; its standing Saturday performances often sell out, and the run has been extended for another year.

In short, it’s exactly what you want on a summer night: a delightfully fun, exhilarating escape. As Kevin himself says midway through the show, “Not bad for the place next to Save Mart, huh?”

Magique is performed at 8 p.m., Saturdays, and occasional Tuesdays and Sundays, at The Theatre, 505 Keystone Ave., in Reno. Tickets start at $40. For tickets or more information, visit www.wethetheatre.com.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.