Out of thin air: Dickens Parlour Theatre now serving meals and magic

Although it might not be obvious from the outside, the inside of Millville’s own magic theater continues to be newsworthy. Most recently, the Dickens Parlour Theatre completely renovated a the main house into a real “parlour” – offering a new dining hall for pre-show dinners and post-show desserts.

Professional magician and Dickens Parlour Theatre owner Rich Bloch explained that, before shows, a dinner buffet will be “catered by an all-star cast of local restaurants.” After performances, audiences can relax with coffee and dessert.

The parlour officially opened last weekend, to begin serving desserts, and it will soon include full meals.

The theater was just opened last summer, having originally served as a mere garage. The house – while vacant – was still on the property, so the theater staff renovated the entire house and removed 13 tons of brick from two fireplaces. What remains is a hall large enough to seat and serve 55 people, plus a miniature theater.

Two major observations led to this radical renovation, according to Bloch.

First of all, audience members often remained in the parking lot long after the sold-out shows had ended. Bloch explained that the performers would often join the conversation, present more magic and get to know people right there in the driveway.

Moreover, most of the visitors were tourists, and Bloch felt that perhaps locals were not being served. By adding the parlour, he hopes to create a gathering place for friends and families to celebrate birthday parties and office parties, and hold business meetings and so forth.

Last Sunday, the parlour was already booked for its first birthday party, and reservations are filling up quickly for the coming months.

Now, after each show, magicians can interact tableside with the patrons, performing tricks and discussing the show in a relaxed setting.

Dickens Parlour Theatre will also sell magic tricks for visitors to purchase and take home. The “Menu of Magic” will be found at each table, and video demonstrations of the tricks will be shown on a nearby 55-inch television screen.

Bloch explained that the television monitor could also serve for companies’ business presentations.

While most people associate the Victorian style of the theater with lace and frills, Bloch has created a warmer and more masculine atmosphere.

The rich red walls are set with stained wooden paneling and bedecked with gold sconces. From London, there are 1880s hand-colored lithograph posters depicting carnival scenes. Several impressive antique games and machines came from Pigeon Forge, Tenn., including a 105-year-old fortune telling machine that predicts the future for one penny.

Bloch is also working to complete his pièce de résistance – a tiny stage with 10 plush seats, hidden behind a secret doorway, for intimate up-close magic shows.

“This is gonna be most beautiful little magic theater in the world,” promised Bloch.

Theater Manager Cheryl DeBois said the community’s support of Dicken’s Parlour Theatre has been “paramount” in encouraging them to pursue the banquet hall.

“We’ve been getting letters every week thanking us for opening. It energizes us to keep doing things.”

“We’ve tried very hard to make [prices] accessible to everybody,” said Bloch of the new parlour. “We want people to feel as good about this place as the theater.”

Comparing Bloch to a “Godfather of magic,” DeBois explained that so many world-class performers travel to Millville now because Bloch is so well respected in the magic community.

The main stage performers are generally family-friendly, appealing to adults and children. And now there can be children-specific shows for birthday parties in the parlour.

Audiences can still see the show without eating at the parlour. However, dining in the parlour will be available for theatergoers only. Reservations for pre-show meals must be made when ordering show tickets. After the show, all audience members are welcome to treat themselves to dessert, without prior reservation.

Cash, checks and credit cards will be accepted.

To reserve tickets, call (302) 829-1071. Dickens Parlour Theatre is located at 35715 Atlantic Avenue in Millville.

Making magazine magic: Dickens Parlour Theatre owner Rich Bloch

A familiar face will adorn the cover of this month’s Magic magazine. Coinciding perfectly with the opening of Dickens Parlour Theatre’s new banquet hall, owner Rich Bloch was featured as the cover story in the widely read industry publication.

“I’m delighted,” Bloch said. “Anytime you get recognition from your peers, it’s a very flattering thing, [especially] when I see the other people who have preceded me.”

In his tenure as a magician, Bloch has been on several magazine covers, but this is his first cover for Magic magazine.

“They have done a number of articles about me and my various adventures over the years, so they were very excited when they heard about the starting of this new magic venue [the Dickens Parlour Theatre],” Bloch said.

Eight full pages profile Bloch’s experiences, which include inventing and collecting illusions, working with Orson Welles, growing as a magician and opening the theater in Millville.

Writer Mark Nelson emphasized the constant balancing act of Bloch’s life: Bloch balances careers as magician and law arbitrator; he travels nonstop between homes in South Bethany and Washington, D.C.; and he develops all the important elements of a strong act, from creating magic to perfecting dialogue and developing an onstage persona.

The cover photograph features Bloch surrounded by books with juxtaposed titles: “Law 101,” “Catalog of Magic,” “Democracy in America,” and “The Glorious Deception.” Bloch peers mischievously up from another old book, next to the scales of justice that deceivingly balance a full pack of playing cards and a few tiny gems.

“I think they did a very caring job,” Bloch said approvingly of Magic magazine. “All of their choices were terrific.”