Magician David Copperfield knows how to make an entrance -- out of thin air, or thick smoky air swirling around a crystal chamber, as happened at the Warner Theatre last night. He also knows how to make an exit, though to say exactly how would be telegraphing one of the many excellent punch lines in a 90-minute show that will be repeated today at 2, 5 and 8 p.m.

It's the in-between that's most astounding, of course. Copperfield may be a great entertainer -- all those highly rated television shows have solidified that reputation -- but he's an even better illusionist and magician. Last night, he mixed old bits with new routines, including a very impressive walk through a steel-welded wall and what can only be described as "erasing" a woman's body from the neck to the calves.

Copperfield also pulled an unsuspecting 6-year-old, Matt Jordan of Falls Church, out of the audience to be a combination assistant, second banana and victim in an extended bit called "Kid Buster." Little Matt was both impressed and pressed into service, but held his own and proved to be a natural in all three roles. That's one of Copperfield's best tricks -- getting kids and adults alike to participate in these magic moments, where skepticism is suspended and wonder abounds. It's good for credibility and it makes each show just different enough.

Some of Copperfield's routines have become, oh, routine, but remain light entertainments that provide a warm-up for the latter knockouts. The best of these involves a free-floating hanky; it's part of a pathos-laden vignette of the sort that Copperfield gravitates to. As for levitation, he plucked one woman out of the audience and did a little of that, too. The only sawing he does, though, is on the collective imagination of the crowd, i.e., did they really see what they just saw.

There's plenty of humor, too, most of it clean, with a tinge of innuendo for the hard-hearted holdouts. The only weak spots are some silly Vegas choreography (mercifully brief) and Copperfield's insistence on using the film clip of his fabled "vanishment" of a 7-ton Lear jet. It suggests the grand scale of his imagination, but it's the warmth and accessibility of David Copperfield's stage show that make seeing believing.