In the first month of their first U.S. tour, the five U.K. magicians that make up Champions of Magic have become familiar with a few things.
We like to say “Y’all,” and when it comes to eating at “unsociable hours,” Denny’s is a pretty popular option.
The Champions of Magic – grand illusionists Richard Young and Sam Strange; Fay Presto, the queen of close-up; master mind reader Alex McAleer; and International Stage Magician of the Year Edward Hilsum – have also become familiar with American audiences.
“American audiences are so much more demonstrative,” Presto said in an email. “The Brits are very reserved.”
“Audiences in the U.S. are way more ‘up for it’ than back home,” McAleer said, also in an email. “In the U.K., people tend to be a bit more cynical whereas here you guys are ready for a good night from the start.”
American audiences also tend to bring the whole family to the show, which Young called a delight.
“We love seeing that the show works for all generations,” he said in an email. “Grandma and grandpa can enjoy the show alongside mom, dad and the kids.”
Spokane audiences will get a chance to make their mark when Champions of Magic comes to Northern Quest Resort and Casino on Sunday.
Apart from a few changes in dialogue – “intermission” rather than “interval,” for example – the U.S. show is not very different from the U.K. show, which the quintet has performed to rave reviews for the past four years.
Young said he and Strange have wanted to perform grand illusions in a touring magic show since they were children.
He likens learning grand illusions to learning a musical instrument.
“It begins by learning the notes (or in magic’s case, the sleights) and then you learn a song (or in magic’s case, a trick),” he said in an email. “Then after learning lots of them a few years later you can write your own music (or create your own magic tricks).”
Young said he and Strange are one of the few illusion acts to incorporate humor into their presentation, adding a bit of silliness into what many illusionists present in a serious manner.
Seeing the Champions of Magic tour as a realization of their childhood dreams, Young and Strange pinch themselves every night and try to give it their all, knowing how much the show could mean to a child in the audience.
“We are also aware every night that there is probably a little kid out in the audience who has been looking forward to the show for a few months,” he said. “Maybe the tickets were on the refrigerator door and he/she looked at them each day and was counting down the days/weeks/months until the show. It’s why we always give 100 percent every single night. It would be rude and arrogant not to!”
How did Presto get started in close-up magic?
“I needed to eat!” she said.
She decided to make a career out of it when she realized “I was useless at just about anything else … Ever heard me sing?”
Presto said training as a close-up magician involved gaining all-around life experience.
“You’ve got to be good at ‘people,’ ” she said.
Mind reader McAleer also became interested in magic as a kid, only rather than wonder how a trick worked, he wondered why a trick worked and why people reacted to it the way they did.
After successfully finding an object he asked a friend to hide without any clues, McAleer realized he wanted to pursue mind reading as a career.
“A lot of dedication to your particular field,” he said when asked what it takes to become a champion of magic. “I don’t think any of us would say we are experts on our particular genre of magic, but we all have a genuine passion for it.”
This passion helps the quintet push through missing their families back home and the at times daunting logistics of touring as part of Champions of Magic, for Young and Strange’s act especially.
Young said the equipment needed for their grand illusion act fills a 50-foot-long truck. He gave a nod to the crew members in charge of setting up and tearing down the set before and after each performance.
“Some venues (especially some of the older ones) are a logistical nightmare to bring such a big show into,” he said. “The best magic tricks some nights on this tour is how the crew makes the show run smoothly despite so many backstage challenges.”
But despite those challenges, the quintet loves what they do, especially the live aspect of it, even in an age when people can watch magic tricks whenever they’d like online.
“If you’ve only ever seen magic on TV or on YouTube, then you’ve not really seen magic,” McAleer said. “Seeing it live is the best way to see it, where it’s a real experience and it can’t possibly be a clever camera trick.”
“There is nothing like seeing someone vanish 10 feet away from you, or seeing magic with live animals or having your own mind read by a mind reader,” Young said. “Our show is a personal experience like nothing else in the world of theater.”
Said Presto simply, “There is no comparison.”