Kevin James: Magic is a truly amazing art

It can give us back that sense of wonder we had as a child

Actually kids are the most difficult to deceive. Scientists are the easiest because they think they know everything about how the world works. Magicians can just imply something and the scientist will accept it. The kids' minds are still wide open and they can get to the real secret faster, illusionist Kevin James says in an interview to Europost.

Mr James, how did you become part of The Illusionists show in 2012?

I am an original cast member of The Illusionists show. It all began 7 years ago at the Sydney Opera House. We were hired to perform there for 3 weeks. It was such a success that we are now in our 7th year! It has become a global brand. I create all of my magic. I hope very much that the audiences here will enjoy my part of the show. I try very hard to find some kind of emotional connection with the audience. Sometimes it is nostalgic, or shocking, or sweet and innocent, I like to make it resonate with the public. That is the best part of The Illusionists show. It is like a big buffet of magic. It is 7 different performers that are all world class, performing their best material. If there is something you do not like, 3 minutes later there will be something you love. We all have different feelings and approaches to our art. We are all at the top of our game. It is a truly amazing and wonderfully produced show.

What happens behind the scene with 7 illusionist in one place?

Behind the scenes is like a big family. We all respect each other because we are all specialists in our chosen type of magic. Because they are all so good, it makes me step up my game and try to be the best that I can. It is also an amazing group of minds to have in one place. So if there is some idea you are working on for your show, it's a good opportunity to get the others' opinions and input. We all want each other to succeed. It is great for magic in general to keep the level very high.

When and how did you realise that illusion is your way in life?

I saw my first magician in my elementary school. I instantly knew that this was what I would do for the rest of my life. I was very focused on that while growing up. I even took university courses that would help my magic career. When my father said, “Why don't you study something in the university to fall back on in case the magic thing doesn't work out the way you want?” I told him that I don't want to have anything to fall back on. I will make it no matter how hard it gets. There were many years that were very hard to earn a living. Now I have no regrets and I am living my dream.

Is there a case in which the magic cannot happen?

If the audience member is too analytical. If they sit there and just try to figure everything out. Imagine if you were watching a movie and just kept trying to figure out all the technical systems employed to make the movie. It wouldn't be much fun. It is much more fun if you just let go and enjoy the ride. The theatrical term for that is “suspension of disbelief”. It is basically not caring how it is done but enjoying why it was done. We are not taking ourselves too seriously. We are entertainers, that's it.

Why do we need some magic in our lives?

When we are children, everything is wonderful and amazing. We are just learning about the world. We live every day with a sense of wonder. As we get older that sense of wonder gets lost. We have to go to school, get a job, pay the bills, etc. Magic is a truly amazing art form that can give us back that sense of wonder we had as a child. That is a beautiful gift and should not be taken lightly.

Who brings magic to your life?

My family is the world to me. I have a lovely wife and 3 amazing sons. As well as lots of friends around the world.

You've worked in Crazy Horse for 3 years, 7 days a week. That's one of the biggest, oldest and most famous cabarets in Europe. What is the feeling to make illusions when beautiful and almost naked ballerinas hang around you?

It's funny because the owner of the Crazy Horse kept the artists away from dancers. It was forbidden to even talk to them. The concept of Mess. Bernardin was to nearly hypnotise the audience with these beautiful artistic tableaus with the girls. They got the best music and lighting effects. Then the specialty acts were thrown onstage with bright white lights to wake up the audience with comedy and magic. It was a great combination.

Have you ever used your skills for private purposes - for example to impress a woman?

Every magician at one time or another has done that. Those days are long gone for me. Now I am focusing on trying to create magic that touches everybody's heart. Magic is a beautiful way to communicate to an audience. Just like a singer.

Are kids the most easy audience?

That is a funny question. Actually kids are the most difficult to deceive. Scientists are the easiest because they think they know everything about how the world works. Magicians can just imply something and the scientist will accept it. The kids' minds are still wide open and they can get to the real secret faster.

Who are the most difficult to “lie” to?

Magicians don't lie. We actually tell the audience that this is a show. It is not real magic, it is theatrical magic. The people that are really lying are the fortune tellers that take your money and tell you that what they are doing is real. They are the ones really lying.

On the stage, every big magician has an assistant. How important are they? What about your assistant?

I utilise several assistants. They are very important, without them there is no show. We are a team with a lot of moving parts. We all have to work in unison for the illusion to be sustained for the audience.

Which of the unique magical effects created by you has the most interesting story?

I was always intrigued with the classic “cutting a person in half” concept. It is usually performed with a box. I have developed a way to perform it out in the open, with no covering. I have a terrible accident with a chainsaw onstage and a person is cut in half just like a tree. The body parts are still very much alive. It is a very shocking visual for the audience. I put him back together with a staple gun because we sometimes have 2 shows in a day. It is all done in fun and it is something that I think the audiences will remember for a very long time. It is also a lot of fun to perform because I can see their faces from the stage.

Is there someone in the world that knows all your secrets?

My wife Claudia. I tell her everything.

Close-up

Kevin James is an American born in France in 1962. He has travelled a long way from making his first steps as a stage magician in primary school to now being among the world's most famous living illusionists. His magical effects have been adopted by pretty much every magician worth their salt, while his Floating Rose trick is among the highlights of David Copperfield's show. He has won nearly every major illusionist award there is, including Stage Magician of the Year, given out by The Magic Castle (Academy of Magical Arts), and Most Original Magician, presented by the International Magicians Society. He has worked at the famous cabaret Crazy Horse and some of the most popular shows in Las Vegas. For the past seven years he has been part of The Illusionists live stage production, which brings together the seven best illusionists in the world. They are in Sofia between 17 and 20 January to present their best tricks.

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