Dirk Arthur didn’t invent the magic act. That was probably accomplished in some prehistoric cave shortly after fire was discovered. What Arthur has done is take the magic act, as it evolved from a political and religious practice to an entertainment realm, and put his own imprint upon it. That is, he gravitated toward the big cats of Siegfried and Roy; the grand illusion of David Copperfield; touches of danger from the Houdini school of magic; and the subtle hand work of Blackstone; and blended them into his own tour of magic and illusion.
As stated, Arthur works with exotic cats and has done so for many years. But big cat magic acts are becoming rarer and rarer due to tighter laws regarding the keeping and transport of show animals. And while, the big cats are still very much a part of his show as evidenced by the name—”Dirk Arthur’s Wild Magic“—if he were to stop using them in his show, he would still have an impressive magic act. Hey, anyone who can float a car and make a full size helicopter appear and disappear on a small stage won’t get his Magic Castle card pulled anytime soon.
We recently caught Dirk Arthur’s show during its summer run (through September 28) in the Fiesta Showroom within Harrah’s Laughlin. In that show he mixed a little fire, a little danger, a little music, humor, large illusions and intimate ones. And he utilized his menagerie of animals—cats, great and small including white tigers and snow leopards— plus barnyard animals like ducks and chickens. That is, he made a stop at all the bases mentioned in the opening paragraph of this article.
Stops such as—female assistants transformed into a black panther; a guy from the audience thought he was holding an empty bucket until Arthur reached into it and pulled out a duck that waved to the audience; and then there were kids serving as assistance and comedy relief for the magician.
And that last observation is pivotal. This is a show for all ages. Sometimes seeing things through the eyes of a child offers a better view than through the eyes and attitude of the jaded adult. We’re talking magic here and kids tend to take it for what it is—the unknown—while adults tend to try to figure out “how he did it.”
Arthur is well aware of that difference going in. He realizes he has to make children out of adults—to make believers out of skeptics. When they go from the “I think I know how he did that” to the “How in the hell did he do that?” stage, he’s won his part of the audience/entertainer bargain.
To get there, Arthur employs his own take on classic illusions as well as create many original ones. He adds a little humor to help move things along. An example of putting his own spin on classic magic bits was when he selected a young girl in the audience and began a dialogue with her about the heartbreak of romance. All the while, he is tearing a red paper heart into small bits and pieces. As he concludes with sentiments that hearts mend, he makes the torn heart magically appear whole again. It’s the old tear something up (sometimes it is money borrowed from an audience member) and then make it reappear trick. But Arthur does it with a story line and audience participation. Nice touch.
It is these up close, small bits of magic that tend to touch and fascinate audiences the most. One of our favorite illusions when we caught the show in the past has been the “Mystery of the Dancing Hankies.” Well, we’re happy to say it was included in the recent show and still had us scratching our heads. In short form, Arthur makes a simple piece of cloth “come alive” as it bounds out of a jar, dances, sleeps and moves according to his commands. With this short introduction and movement, the cloth becomes akin to a ventriloquist’s dummy, that is, an inanimate object is taken as something alive. Arthur brings this home when he introduces the cloth to another, female cloth and the two “create” a baby hankie. Good stuff.
Arthur’s sense of pacing is good. He takes audiences from the small and personal to the oversized and impressive. Just when you are lulled by such a common item as a piece of cloth, you are then taken to a world where cars can float.
This latter illusion is one that he brought to his Laughlin shows during his last run and now brings back again. The skeptics were brought around as Arthur levitated a full size classic roadster in mid air, draped it in cloth, passed hoops around it, gave the audience one last peek at it as he lifted the cloth, and then, in the blink of an eye, made the automobile disappear.
And if making a car disappear isn’t big enough, Arthur also included his signature act by making a full size helicopter appear out of seemingly nowhere. The logistics of this illusion quickly boggle the mind and sweep you up on the magic bus.
The animals were interspersed throughout the evening. He made tigers appear and disappear; so too, a panther, a bobcat, the duck… He even had a chicken magically “catapulted” across the stage from one box to another. This live take on “Angry Birds” had a built in humorous element to it, though no chicken was ever really catapulted across the stage.
He utilized some good lines during his interplay with the big cats, which always widen the eyes of audience members when they are on stage. One tiger licked its lips as he eyed the audience and stated, “Look, dinner!” He asked the audience if we wanted to pet the cat, saying it would cost “an arm and a leg.”
In between segments, Arthur showed video footage of his cats at his home in Las Vegas, playing and interacting with them, telling their story and of his breeding program.
We noted earlier that this is a show for the entire family and that kids are very much a part of things. Well, one of our favorite segments of the recent show was when Arthur called up a young boy to join him on stage for some of his up-close illusions. He dolled the kid up like a magician with a top hat and “wrap-around” suit. The difference in the outfit from the norm was that Arthur put his own arms in the sleeves so you had the illusion the boy was performing the magic tricks and not the hidden Arthur. The look of surprise on the boy’s face as colored scarves appeared out of nowhere right in front of his nose was the heart of the bit.
The fact that Arthur’s show attracted a really good crowd on a Tuesday night was impressive in its own way. Sure, he has big cats as a hook and a draw, but adaptability to the crowd through humor, audience participation and subtle magic won them over. And yes, it even had jaded us thinking, well, I can still believe in magic.