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Experience the Magic of Charleston’s Southern Charmer

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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It's not just the setting - a Victorian parlor filled with vintage appointments, its windows draped in red velvet.

It's not just the genteel host, his voice eloquent, his white-tie tuxedo, refined.

It's not just the stories told, the recounting of family experiences that, as the night unfurls, connects one and all to this enchanted space.

And it's not just the goldfish that slips into a water goblet from the papery shaft of an ordinary, rolled up dollar bill, nor the teapot that pours your favorite drink on demand, nor the mind-reading that turns a simple painting into an inexplicable mystery, nor the applause that follows the many heavily pregnant pauses, the thrills rippling through the small, delighted audience.

Like a house of cards, each element here supports the whole, seamlessly constructing a show deserving of a name as captivating as The Southern Charmer.

There are a little more than two dozen seats in historic Charleston's Palmetto Crescent Parlour, which means the audience is never any bigger than your grandmother's annual holiday gathering. That's intentional, says Kellar O'Neil, the mentalist and magician who puts on the "charm."

"While there are entertaining shows on large-scale stages, I chose to perform in a parlor setting because it truly is miraculous and quite a spectacle when the magic happens right in front of your eyes," said the Spartanburg native, who was inspired by his crafty grandfather to pursue a career in magic. "There are no hidden back stages, no bright lights to distract your eyes or loud music to deafen you to gimmicks. There is nothing added or taken away - just simple miracles of magic and mind-reading around the table."

Indeed, as O'Neil moves through his act, weaving in family stories all the while, it feels warm and organic. There's no sense of being "tricked" - the audience is more than happy to suspend its disbelief.

"For a lot of entertainers, it's all about showcasing their talents and with this comes egocentric personalities," said O'Neil, who claims his uncanny abilities are driven, in part, by an unseen whispering imp on his shoulder. "In my mind, I love performing and sharing because it is about the spectators - all about the spectators. Yes, I am performing and entertaining, but I want the audience to enter a realm of impossibility and leave saying, ‘I remember when my grandfather or grandmother told me a story like that as a child,' for example. I want the spectators to feel like their own memories are part of this magical experience. I simply want to inspire and spark again that childlike wonder in their minds. With all the hustle and bustle of this world, it is possible to escape in our minds and hearts and again experience life as it should be experienced - with wonder."

O'Neil also brings his magic to the table through special collaborative dinners featuring Charleston's chef Bob Waggoner and at the Italian restaurant, La Farfalle. Check the Facebook page of the Palmetto Crescent Parlour for upcoming dates.

Ready to step back in time and enjoy some parlor magic? You will need to reserve your seats online, but do so well in advance as seating is limited and performances of The Southern Charmer are offered on Friday and Saturday nights only. To preserve the atmosphere in this intimate setting, children must be 10 years or older to attend. The show runs a little more than one hour and light refreshments are served. Though not required, guests are invited to fully immerse themselves in the experience by dressing up for this memorable, magical occasion.

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.