Review: Champions of Magic (Starvox Entertainment)

Photo of Fernando Velasco by Pamela Raith The magic show from the UK featuring five world-class magicians is now playing in Toronto

Who doesn’t love a magic show? Oh, they’re the empty-calorie guilty pleasures of the performing arts, to be sure, but their unabashed spectacle and their ability to dazzle and delight makes them accessible, crowd-pleasing entertainment. Champions of Magic, is just that. Performing a three-week stint in Toronto over the holidays, the show is guaranteed to increase your dopamine levels.

As a kid, I remember going with my family to see David Copperfield perform. You don’t really see big celebrity illusionists headlining solo shows on tour like that anymore (at least outside of casinos). Instead, we see shows featuring groups of magicians like The Illusionists and the UK’s answer: Champions of Magic.

Contemporary illusionists rely on YouTube and online audiences to build their names—in fact the marketing material for this show touts the number of YouTube views the cast has collectively racked up. While the performers in the show aren’t necessarily household names, they bring their individual specialties together to create a well-balanced, tightly-paced, thoroughly entertaining evening of magic.

Photo of Sam Strange, Richard Young, Alex McAleer, Kayla Drescher, and Fernando Velasco by Pamela Raith

The duo of Young and Strange specialize in spectacular, stage-filling grand illusions, like making large objects materialize seemingly out of thin air, in between their playful back-and-forth banter.

Alex McAleer, a mentalist who just oozes British charm, wows the audience with his stunning feats of prediction.

Kayla Drescher performs amazing close-up magic, at times literally in the auditorium amidst the audience, with an “aw, shucks” bashfulness that’s quite endearing. 

Rounding out the cast is Fernando Velasco, a suave escape artist who performs heart-pounding, death-defying stunts.

Champions of Magic has a bit of a variety show feel to it. The presentation is straightforward, unfussy, and unpretentious. There’s a brief historical nod to Harry Houdini before Velasco re-creates his famous water torture cell escape, but none of the other acts are given any real context. 

The other performers rely on charm and humour over artistry. They’re self-aware and realize that magic has a reputation for being chintzy but smartly play into it. The finale number where Young and Strange perform a series of illusions while doing a campy, over-the-top send up of the old-school Vegas magic shows is as hilarious as it is dazzling. 

The show also relishes in spectacle; there’s ample use of pyro cues and confetti canons. Yes, it’s sort of cheesy but it’s also a lot of fun and isn’t that how all good magic shows ought to be? Champions of Magic is a fun and entertaining night out that will please young and old alike.

Details:

  • Champions of Magic is playing from December 19, 2018 to January 6, 2019 at the Bluma Appel Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts (27 Front St. E)
  • Tickets $59.95 – $129.95
  • Tickets are available in person at the venue box office or online. 

Photos of Sam Strange, Richard Young, Alex McAleer, Kayla Drescher, and Fernando Velasco by Pamela Raith