The Lansing was well filled last night, especially in the parquet, for everybody was anxious to sit well forward to see "how it was done." But they did not find out. Herrmann is too deep a magician for any ordinary critic. Undoubtedly there is a fine technique in magic and an expert critic might find and explain to us some of Mr. Herrmann's shortcomings. But it is enough for us to know that we were mystified, and delightfully, too.
Probably the most entertaining parts of the program were those where Mr. Herrmann was alone on the stage. The more carefully prepared scenic effects were startling, but they took too much time to prepare, considering the very short time they lasted. Even the "Chicken Polka" failed to amuse in some of the longer waits.
Among the best things was the trick with the canaries. Four birds, all alive and singing, should not be improved by being wrapped up in paper and shot with a pistol. And yet, when Mr. Herrmann treated them so, they came out all the merrier. Then there were hats that proved to be filled with flowers, rabbits that did under the coat collars of people in the audience, handkerchiefs that vanished at a word, and a general uncertainty as to what anything was or where it would turn up next.
The most striking thing was the little spirit scene. A good many had, for the first time in their lives, the privilege of seeing a real and uncannily impressive ghost, and a set of banjo-playing skeletons that made the flesh creep. There seemed to be dozens of them, flocking out of everywhere, and they danced a wild, bony dance to the tune of "Ta-ra-ra-ra Boom de aye." The house was pitch dark, and all one could see was the white forms capering wildly on the black background, how far or how near one could not well tell. This scene of the spiritualistic manifestations was the only one of the more carefully prepared scenes that really was worth the long waiting. "After the Ball," an exhibition of a trick mirror, was disappointing. One wants something more thrilling than mere disappearances. The same thing applies to the much advertised "Escape From Sing Sing," and to the "Magic Swing."
Mme. Herrmann's dances were beautiful, especially the last one, when all the colors of the rainbow were turned on from six calcium lights. It is a pity that more of the stage was not draped in black, for the effect would have been better. Still, it was really wonderful as it was, being by far the best dance of the kind seen in Lincoln this season.
Mr. Herrmann won everybody from parquet to gallery. His smile, like his shower of picture cards, was far-reaching, and he ultimately won even the most obdurate of the gods to silent attention. He went so far at the end as to explain one simple trick with a few eggs and handkerchiefs, one that, he said, one could learn by practice — for three or four years.
Everybody went away trying to explain how he did it. The only trouble was that their explanations were all different. But then, after all, no one really wants the tricks explained. We would almost like to forget that they are tricks, and believe them, as the children do, to be real magic, and Mr. Herrmann, with his little black wand, to be a real magician.