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Is magic the new rock ‘n’ roll?
Probably not, though you may think so given the number of performances dedicated to the art taking place in Edmonton in the next couple weeks. From the already sold-out Jay Flair show at the Grindstone this Saturday to Jeff Newman’s mentalist act at Pure Casino Yellowhead on April 23, there’s a decent chance you’ll get to see a person sawed in half, if that’s on your bucket list. According to dancer and illusionist Anthony Street, who’s bringing his Irish dance-themed Celtic Illusion Reimagined show to the Jubilee Auditorium Monday, a lot of people are aching to get out and enjoy themselves after a long, stressful winter filled with bad news.
“We’ve been inside for so long,” Street says from his Abbotsford hotel room. “Going out, mingling and socializing and seeing something live is what everyone wants to do. You can go to the cinema and watch a multi-million dollar film, but there’s an energy and excitement to live performances that can’t be beat.”
Street, who starred in Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance for half a decade before starting his own project, is the first to admit the idea of fusing Irish dancing with magic and illusions is a slight bit off the wall. Created in 2011 while Street was back home in his native Australia, Celtic Illusion moves along like a slick Broadway spectacle with a soundtrack composed by such notables as Angela Little, Steve Skinner and Michael Londra. Also interesting are the elements of Michael Jackson and Bob Fosse that Street and his crew, which includes leading lady Georgia May, have seeded through the performance.
“There’s a stereotypical idea of what a magic show should be,” notes Street, who has been involved in magic for at least as long as he’s been dancing. “I use magic as ways to introduce lead characters, or for an exit to a scene. There’s a surprise around every quarter, and when you mix that with the already exciting art form of Irish dance, it tends to grab everyone’s attention.”
Born into it
Street’s career as a dancer and illusionist came about through a lot of hard work and determination. You can say the same about Masters of Illusion – Live star Chipper Lowell, though he was also born into it.
Lowell is a second-generation entertainer, with parents who met and eventually married as performers in the Ringling Brothers circus. His father was an old-school professional clown, his mother a dancer who became an aerialist and juggler. Lowell himself was part of the act as a kid, standing below his mom to hand her necessary props.
“There was always a wide variety of talents and skills around us,” says Lowell from his Los Angeles home. “When I grew up I was more on the comedy side, and then I started doing a little bit of magic with my stand-up.”
Lowell, who is also a part of the Masters of Illusion TV show on the CW network, has his own solo show that he tours. Still, he always enjoys the opportunity to link up with co-stars Chris Funk and Mark Bennick for a group effort.
“We all have our own individual styles that we bring to the performance,” Lowell says. “Sometimes audiences don’t realize that there are different genres of magic. You can do it seriously or comedically, you can do mentalism, you can do audience participation. Grand illusions, manipulations, card manipulations, things like that. So there’s a nice variety in this show, which is always enjoyable.”
Both Street and Lowell are self-described perfectionists. If you’ve seen either of their shows you’re seeing works-in-progress as they continually find new ways to astonish their audiences and challenge their own skills. Perhaps most importantly, both are as eager to ply their skills as the audience is to see them.
“I have a lot of gratitude when it comes to the people who come out to see us,” Lowell chuckles. “You know, just allowing me to run around on stage and be a goofball. I very much appreciate it.”
When: Monday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Jubilee Auditorium, 11445 87 Ave.
Tickets: Starting at $61.40 in advance from Ticketmaster.ca
Masters of Illusion
When: Thursday, April 14 at 8 p.m.
Where: Winspear Centre, 4 Sir Winston Churchill Sq.
Tickets: Starting at $48.53 in advance from Winspear website https://my.winspearcentre.com/7872/6772