BWW Interviews: Kevin James of THE ILLUSIONISTS on Tour

Magic is something that entertains millions of people all over the world. There are no language barriers nor issues with interpreting the art. It's just an opportunity to be entertained by talented magicians for an unforgettable two hours. THE ILLUSIONISTS started out as a three-week engagement at Australia's famed Sydney Opera House. Five years later, it tours all over and plays to sold-out audiences wherever they go. Kevin James is one of the original magicians and gave BWW a glimpse into the world of making magic.

What made you get interested in magic in the first place?

I don't even know. I saw a magician in my elementary school and I just fell in love with it. I think a lot of young people fall in love with magic in the beginning and a lot of them grow out of it. I was just lucky enough not to grow out of it. It just kept getting stronger. Doug Henning hit the scene about that time and I saw him on TV and it pretty much sealed the deal for me. I had no other interest except that. I was very driven my whole life.

Do you remember your first magic shows?

The first magic shows are always terrible and it was me and six library books in a very small village with no other magicians to talk to. I performed for my own elementary school and my class and I can remember it really not being very good. But, you gotta start somewhere. But, it gets better.

You have performed all over the world. What are some audiences that stick out for you?

We ILLUSIONISTS did shows in Central and South America. We were in Ecuador and I don't think they'd seen any magic before because reactions were like five times bigger than what we normally get. And we get pretty good reactions normally. But, I think just the element of surprise of seeing it live. It was like virgin eyes. It was kinda scary at first then we figured out what it was and went with it. The whole world, people love magic. That's the best part about magic, it transcends all barriers. You don't even have to speak English to really dig it. If you're six years old or ninety years old, it doesn't matter. It's a very visceral art form and I think everyone can love it and appreciate it and share it. I worked the White House. They were nice. I'm a big history buff so it was a total thrill for me to perform in the East Room at the White House. It's where all the documents are signed and meetings are held. It was a big thrill. Now, whenever I see some big signing on TV, I know exactly where they are. That fireplace is over there. Those curtains are there. What they do, is they do different backgrounds in that same room. They position it different ways for different things. It was pretty cool.

You have innovated your own original illusions and others have used them as well. What is that like to see someone else perform your illusions?

It's fun. It's great if they do it well. If they don't do it well then it's painful. When you release something, you have to emotionally let it go. When you develop something, it's like a baby. You have this emotional attachment to your work. You start it off as a scribble on a napkin and went through the various stages and then you think that maybe we should release this to some of the people. At that moment, you have to emotionally detach from your baby and let it have an adult life on its own. And what I like is when someone takes something of mine and changes it to fit their own personality. I like to see how they tweak things and make it their own.

How did you get involved in this current production of THE ILLUSIONISTS?

Four of us in the show now are part of the original cast. It started with just a three-week job that came up that was for the Sydney Opera House. We just thought it was going to be a three-week job and join the party. There was just some amazing synergy that happened down in Australia at this amazing theater and we sold-out instantly. The time was right. The promotion was right. The quality of the show was right and they broke box office records and got some great video and then were able to start selling to other parts of the world. That's about five years ago. From a three-week job, it turned into a five-year job.

When people come to see THE ILLUSIONISTS, what can they expect to see with all the different personalities and types of magic included in the show?

It's like a big buffet. Instead of eating mashed potatoes for the whole two hours, you get everything. All of us have different styles, we have different personalities and we're all experts at our specialties. If there's something you don't like, two minutes later they'll be something you'll absolutely love. There's a huge variety factor that we bring to the table. It's really not a kid's show. It's designed for everybody but it's absolutely kid friendly. Kids can love it but 98% of our audiences are adults. Especially matinees, we'll see tons of kids out there but it's a fun show that the whole family can share together and talk about for years to come. I promise that there will be things you'll see that you've never seen before and things that you'll remember for a long, long time. It's a fast-paced; the tempo moves right along. It's entertaining, a lot of comedy, a lot of audience participation and some amazing visual things happen.

THE ILLUSIONISTS plays at Bass Concert Hall in Austin, Texas from November 1-6, 2016. Don't miss this spectacular show. Purchase tickets at the TEXAS PERFORMING ARTS website.

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From This Author Kathy Strain