Review: Maestros of Magic – Concerto for Piano & Pasteboards (Magicana, Luminato)

Reignite the wonder with a musically inclined magic show at the Luminato Festival in Toronto

I grew up with a kid that wanted to perform magic – David Copperfield illusionist type magic. I remember him starting with the rabbit pulled from the hat to entertain at kids’ birthday parties before moving to more complicated mind boggling tricks to cap off our theatre classes in high school. Last I saw of him, he had his face on a billboard and was given a red carpet reception in China. Not bad.

His passion for the slight of hand always intrigued me and is why, when browsing shows for this year’s Luminato Festival, I was drawn to the Maestros of Magic performances for their combination of music (something also reminiscent of childhood) and magic.

Concerto for Piano and Pasteboards is a fun hour-and-a-half long magical spectacle, the visionary creation of Spanish magician Miguel Puga (also known as MagoMigue), in his first ever Canadian appearance. When Puga realized that a grand piano has 52 white keys, the same number of cards in a deck, he immediately drew a correlation between music and magic – a connection that evokes similar emotions from the audience caught up in the swells of a vibrant piano solo to that of a crowd waiting for the slight of hand and ultimate reveal.

The performance combines the talents of Puga, pianist (and also illusionist) Paz Sabater and his lovely (yet not so enthusiastic) assistant Luis Britos as the piano is used to lure the mind along the path that Puga is leading with this card tricks projected onto a big screen. The man’s professionalism at his craft is superb, the slight of hand seamless as he transforms a regular playing deck to a deck of blank cards, to a blank deck saved for the one card chosen by an audience member. And yes, like any magician’s show, the audience gets involved. Be prepared to be possibly called upon (unless, as many suspect, the audience participants are actually planted).

Puga is a great performer but his stage presence was tinted by what I can only suspect to be nerves coming from performing for a Canadian foreign audience for the first time. English is not his first language so his accent is evident and sometimes he’s hard to understand. That aside, the magic makes up for it. Nothing Penn and Teller-like, no huge spectacle, fanfare, smoke and mirrors, or crazy light show – just a few decks of cards, musical accompaniment and a sense of wonder, with a few personal stories of his magical education in Spain sprinkled throughout.

Sabater is a great pianist able to play many popular tunes at will. Even when the tunes were randomly chosen by members of the audience (not all members, I wasn’t given a card to fill out), the titles of which were sent to her telepathically.

Concerto for Piano & Pasteboards is a delightful performance for all ages that will ignite your inner sense of wonder and bewilderment, that same spark that captured your attention as a kid to the world of stage magic.


Photo of Paz Sabater and Miguel Puga by Juaquin Puga.