The disappointing recent box office performance of “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” a movie about dueling magicians on the Strip, has prompted speculation that the art of magic has become passe.
As someone who has performed illusions in clubs, onstage and in streets and is now preparing for a new Spike TV magic “docuseries” this fall, I can tell you that magic continues to exert a strong pull on people, even as the art itself morphs to reflect its cultural context. The evidence is in how magicians continue to pack in crowds on the Strip, where I am fortunate that my show “Believe” still draws huge audiences to the Luxor’s 1,533-seat theater.
Magic speaks to the child in all of us. No matter how sophisticated we become, there’s still a part of us who wants to believe in an alternative reality, where we can defy the laws of nature. Indeed, most magicians catch the bug as kids. My first audience was my family in Long Island. My first “assistant” was my mother, whom I levitated on a broom in our living room.
Magic also speaks to the adult in us. We are not just captivated by the illusion but how the illusion connects to us in a bigger way. When a demonstration can transport us beyond questions of how it is done, then it becomes the purest form of magic — the magic of emotion.
Most of all, magic is in our cultural DNA.
I like to say magic is the world’s second oldest profession, a mystical and often awe-inspiring spectacle that, throughout the ages, has blended superstition, trickery and religion. Ancient priests held believers spellbound with their “supernatural” powers. Secular magicians amused crowds in the streets and the market. Kings counted magicians among their court entertainers and advisers.