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The Arts: The Amazing Johnathan brings magic to Nemacolin

Sunday, December 30, 2001

By Dave Zuchowski

It's possible to extend the magic of the holiday season by catching The Amazing Johnathan's performance tonight at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa near Farmington.

Dubbed "The Freddy Krueger of Comedy," Johnathan Krackehl has become a popular performer of magic, illusion, sleight of hand and mentalism.

Based out of his home in Westchester County, New York, Krackehl started learning magic at age 9. In addition to fast becoming known as one of the most original and bizarre acts to emerge in recent years, the seasoned magician spends much of his time teaching and performing for children. That's one of the reasons his act has an intergenerational appeal.

"I am a firm believer that magic is not only entertaining but can boost self-esteem, spur creativity and give true direction in life," he said of his work with children.

Despite making regular appearances on television shows around the world, The Amazing Johnathan thrives on live appearances. Rolling Stone Magazine dubbed him "one of the best road comics in the country."

Krackehl's style has been described as a cross between Steve Martin and Alice Cooper. On top of his side splitting humor, his shows often become shocking and horrific.

Krackehl combines his magic with original special effects that often make audience members hide their heads under the table. One second they're laughing until they can't breathe, the next they're screaming because he seemingly has pulled the arm off a spectator.

The Amazing Johnathan's most famous fan turned out to be former President Ronald Reagan, who invited him to perform at the 1986 Statue of Liberty Celebration. Another supportive fan changed the course of his career.

Merv Griffin, mastermind behind the two biggest game shows in TV history, "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy," watched Krackehl amaze audiences night after night as the headliner of his Red Hot and Rowdy Review in Atlantic City. In 1990, Griffin approached him about creating a game show based on his live review. Together they created Ruckus, said to be the wildest game show ever aired.

Ruckus was played each day in Atlantic City at Resorts International in front of 700 fans -- the largest audience in game show history. After seeing the wild pilot for the show, NBC bought 65 episodes which aired every night on WNBC. The show still is seen every Saturday night on The Game Show Network.

The Amazing Johnathan is recognizable from his record number of appearances on Fox's "Comic Strip Live" (an unprecedented 24 appearances), the "Arsenio Hall Show," HBO's "Young Comedy Special," four Showtime specials,and "Late Night with David Letterman." He's also been featured numerous times on "Entertainment Tonight."

Krackehl recently starred in his own half-hour special for Comedy Central titled "Lounge Lizard," which became one of the cable network's most requested specials. He also appeared in three network specials last season, including NBC's "World's Greatest Magic II," "World's Wildest Magic" and ABC's "Caesar Palace's 30th Anniversary Special."

Krackehl's special skills also have earned him a slot as special effects advisor for the film "The Great Inner Solitude," a story about a writer so caught up in his work that his characters come to life and constantly harass him to write the ending of the tale according to their whims and desires.

This year, Krackehl won Best Magician of the Year in the World Magic Awards, which aired on Fox TV. His fast-paced razor and tornado-like approach to magic seems to be making him a legend in his own time.

The Amazing Johnathan, a k a Johnathan Krackehl, appears at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa at 8:30 tonight. For his performance, the resort's Marquis Ballroom will be configured in theater-style seating. Cocktail attire is suggested, and a cash bar will be available. Tickets for the show cost $35 and can be reserved by calling 800-422-2736.

Dave Zuchowski is a free-lance writer who covers arts and entertainment for Washington Sunday. He can be reached by e-mail at

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