Metro Vancouver is a region of many languages, which can create barriers between people from different countries.
But magic shows transcend linguistic silos because they're so visual. Objects appear out of nowhere, often in a colourful milieu, creating a sense of wonder regardless of whether audience members speak English, Mandarin, Farsi, or Swahili.
As North Americans cities have become more diverse in the 21st century, this art form is more popular than ever, thanks in part to the spellbinding illusions of superstars like David Blaine and Criss Angel.
Vancouverites will get their chance to experience Las Vegas-calibre conjuring next Friday to Sunday (September 7 to 9) with seven shows at A World of Magic at the Vancouver Playhouse.
The opening event is on the Friday evening, followed by three family-friendly shows on each of the following two days. Presented by impresario James Liu, A World of Magic will feature world champion magicians Juliana Chen (also a presenter) and Aaron Crow.
Chen was born in Hunan, China, and after training to be a ballerina, she joined the Guangzhou Acrobatic Troupe. She’s been named the best magician in China. After moving to the Lower Mainland, she won the International Federation of Magic Societies' world championship in the manipulation category in 1997.
In so doing, she became the first magician of Chinese ancestry to accomplish this feat.
For his part, Crow has performed in the Sydney Opera House and on Britain’s Got Talent, attracting millions of page views on YouTube.
That’s not all. Canada’s 2006 magicians of the year, Murray Hatfield & Teresa, will bring their award-winning illusions to the Vancouver Playhouse.
They’ll share the stage with other esteemed magicians, including Ed Alonzo, Claudius Specht, Kevin James, and Wayne Houchin. Alonzo, also a comic actor and vaudeville performer, is known to many TV viewers by his Groucho Marx eyebrows and Harold Lloyd glasses, not to mention his crazy vertical hairstyle.
“It’s going to bring Vancouver audiences a top, world-level performance,” Liu said at an August 17 news conference at the Marine Bay Restaurant in Richmond.
The president of the 76-year-old Vancouver Magic Circle, Bryn Williams, also spoke at the news conference.
He explained that Vancouver has Canada’s largest magic club, with more than 150 members. Many, including Chen, have gone on to become headliners in Las Vegas and international touring magicians.
Another of those professional touring artists is the Vancouver Magic Circle’s past president, Billy Hsueh, who’s helping to promote A World of Magic.
Williams said that members of his club are particularly excited about Chen’s return to Vancouver.
“It’s going to be amazing magic,” Williams said. “These performers are simply not to be missed.”
At the news conference, local magicians, including Williams and Hsueh, amazed and at times flabbergasted those in attendance with their tricks.
Among those enthralled was Richmond councillor Chak Au, who confessed to being “addicted to magic”. He even admitted that he tried to be a magician when he was a young man. After failing in that endeavour, he went on to become a successful professor of clinical psychology.
“I’m very happy that this Vancouver magic festival is coming to town,” Au said at the news conference. “And I thank the organizers for bringing such a high level for the audience in Vancouver.”
Joan Elangovan, executive director of the Vancouver Economic Commission’s Asia Pacific Centre, praised Liu at the news conference for contributing to the local economy by bringing A World of Magic to the city.
“With all these trade disputes going on, I think we need some magic here,” Elangovan quipped. “We need more interactions, understandings, and coming together to do things and enjoy these beautiful cultural aspects of life.”
For each ticket sold, $3 will go to the Richmond Hospital Foundation. The foundation’s senior development manager, Spencer Gall, said that this money will help buy much-needed equipment to enhance health care in Richmond.
He also couldn’t resist highlighting the parallels between magicians and medical personnel.
“When we think about magic, it’s mysterious and it’s fun and people get a lot of happiness watching the performers,” Gall commented. “It’s a little bit similar to a hospital. In the hospital, our health-care professionals do their magic and they try their best to bring good health, happiness, and hope back to our patients and families.”