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ATTRACTIONS British magician casts spell with 'Magic Immersive'
by Andrew Davis
2021-12-24

This article shared 633 times since Fri Dec 24, 2021
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Through Sunday, Jan. 2, Chicago is hosting "Magic Immersive," which will entrance people of all ages.

Featuring two floors and 360 degrees of magic performances, illusions and interactive displays, the Illusionarium at Magic Immersive offers guests everything from up-close parlor magic to escape performances to large-scale illusions. British magician Jamie Allan—the performer behind "iMagician," which had a blockbuster run at the Harris Theater in 2018—is the creator and producer of "Magic Immersive." (In addition, there's a museum-type exhibit that pays homage to magicians ranging from David Copperfield to Doug Henning.)

Windy City Times: This runs through Jan. 2, right?

Jamie Allan: Right. It may run longer, but we are planning on going on a U.S. tour. It is a convention-center show. It's based on a socially distant show I did during COVID; we created a different style of magic by moving people around in different rooms. We're now creating the show I wanted in the first place, which is one that takes place around you in all directions. [Note: This interview was conducted before the omicron variant of COVID caused a spike in cases.]

WCT: There is a Harry Houdini water escape in this show. I've always wondered how and WHY he would do such a thing.

JA: In this show, we have four professional escapologists who are also swimmers. All of them have a breath hold in excess of four minutes, give or take. We do the water-chamber escape in full view [of the audience]. What I like about it is that it's real magic; we don't make any secret of it. We show you how it's done. They have to pick the locks, and these are real handcuffs—I don't care what anyone says.

Obviously, we have a safety team but they have to undo everything until they get out. There are five sets of cuffs and locks holding the tank. It's incredible.

But I don't want to take the credit for all this. We had the idea and the rough design, but then two people came into this. One was Greg Pruitt, who was a world champion of magic but is also an incredible construction person; he actually built the tank and designed how it would work. Also, the concept came from collaborating with Jonathan Goodwin, who was the leading daredevil in the world. In a lot of ways, his work surpassed Houdini's. I'm honestly happy to say the water escape done here is the best version of a water escape that's ever been done.

And the drama of it… Every element that goes around it is something else. It's more than someone sitting in a fish tank undoing locks.

WCT: How did you come to choose this team?

JA: Well, this team is the result of efforts from me and my creative partner, Tommy Bond. Tommy and I create the shows together and we bring in a number of people. Our head of magic is Harry De Cruz, who worked on a lot of TV shows in England. We have an incredible consultant, Richard Ouzounian, who helps with a lot of the theatrical staging.

And we have people we've worked with before. Cameron Gibson is our lead magician; when I'm not here, he's responsible for the whole show and he performs in it, as well. And we hire magicians from all over the world, including Chicago.

WCT: So people can expect parlor magic, stage magic…

JA: There are major illusions. There's digital magic and the magic of technology, including items with iPads. We make people disappear into television screens and come back out. And we do twists on old classics. For example, we take Houdini's "Metamorphosis" illusion—where two people exchange places in a wooden trunk—and do a new version invented by my friend John Taylor.

We'd like to think this is the way Houdini would do this today. We respect that Houdini was probably the greatest ever, but we want to move on.

WCT: And you feel David Copperfield was the biggest influence on you?

JA: He was a huge influence on me. I got to work with him a little—which was a dream come true. [Recently], I was in Las Vegas for a couple days and I got to spend hours with David in his warehouse, where he was the world's largest collection of magic. He's so passionate about it; I almost cried three times. It was just unbelievable.

My favorite trick of his was when he made a train carriage disappear, although he's also known for his tricks with the Statue of Liberty and a Lear jet.

WCT: Where do you see the future of magic?

JA: So the magicians in the old days would turn up in top hats, and a lot of magicians would do things like borrow money from the audience. Well, it's getting harder and harder to find people [who] have cash. People now carry smartphones, so I now do tricks with those. We also do large-scale illusions with things like lasers, and even have people fly on lasers.

WCT: And what is the essence of magic?

JA: For me, magic is not about fooling people, because that's what most people [think]. If you ask most people what magicians do, they would say "tricks." But, for me, it's about escapism—making you feel like a child again. My favorite saying is "I don't keep secrets from you. I keep secrets for you." You don't want to know how it's done because that spoils it; you always want to keep it.

When everybody comes in, their first instinct is to pay attention because they have to figure it out. But then, after a while…

Also, we start all of our shows with a fast pace of several tricks. At first, people wonder, "Where did he or she come from?" After being hit several times, though, they stop caring and they just start to let it happen.

It's about wonder and making you feel like a kid again.

The two-floor Magic Immersive experience—which includes everything from audience levitation to a video featuring the world-famous Penn & Teller to the Houdini water escape—is running through Sunday, Jan. 2, at 360 N. State St. See www.magicimmersive.com .


This article shared 633 times since Fri Dec 24, 2021
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