Joe Grasso of Grasso’s Magic Theatre
Big Daddy Cool and Tome WilsonI've driven by Grasso’s Magic Theatre in Philadelphia a dozen times. It’s hidden among unsuspecting buildings in an unexpected part of town, so it wasn’t until I was personally invited to an afternoon of jazz and magic that I was finally able to pull back the curtain. Located near Dave & Buster’s on the waterfront, Grasso’s is part magic shop, part theatre, and all heart.
Owned and operated by its namesake, Joe Grasso, the building was converted in 2001 from an industrial warehouse into a 1920s-style performance theatre for magic and illusionists. You could stop in for lessons on Wednesday, have your mind read on Friday, and stay up late for a little magic, booze, and burlesque on Saturday, and I guarantee you that you’ll never stop being amazed. The theatre spotlights the best magic Philadelphia has to offer, which shouldn’t be too surprising. The Grasso family has a history in the entertainment business and knows talent when they see it. Before getting into the theatre business, Joe worked for Miramax, and his son Michael Grasso was a finalist on America’s Got Talent thanks to an award-winning set of illusions.
This past weekend at the magic speakeasy, Grasso’s was hosting “Big Daddy Cool” Johnny Dellarocca. You might have heard the name from his Magic Talk website or from the new Diesel Powered Podcast, but in person Johnny is anything but talk. Maybe it’s the red pinstripes, but Johnny is a giant on stage.
Bigger than life, his show mixes a unique blend of swing-cat style with well-practiced stage illusions, turning what could have been the same old three-card shuffle into non-stop belly-laugh entertainment. Whatever tricks were up his sleeves, Johnny certainly made his own. With over twenty years of experience on his side, his latest act consists of prop-work, illusion, and mentalism peppered with slight-of-hand. What makes it unique — like a feather in a fedora — is Johnny’s swing-era spirit. His devotion reads like a love letter to the ‘30s, which makes him a perfect fit for Grasso’s speakeasy-style décor. If Big Daddy Cool and The Swing Kittens ever hit your town, I would certainly recommend it.