CLICK ON COVER IMAGE TO GET TO THE DIGITAL EDITION
The Charmed Life of Michael Turco Magic. It misdirects you, entertains you, and plays with your mind. But who knew it could be sexy, edgy and so much fun to watch? Welcome to Michael Turco’s “Magic & Mayhem,” a fast-paced, magical mash-up now playing afternoons at Saxe Theatre in Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops.
From the moment Turco takes the stage along with his petite and gorgeous gaggle of dancers, you know you’re in for a fun Vegas experience. But fear not ladies, the cherubic Turco is young, trendy, cool in leather and denim, and instantly wins the audience over by not taking himself too seriously. He jokes with the crowd, rolls with the punches and shakes his head mockingly when his leather jacket gets caught in a door during a cube illusion. The show must go on.
With rock music and hot choreography by industry ally Lacey Schwimmer of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” Turco even shows off his dancing skills between the story telling and illusions. With the down-to-earth charm of someone you’d like to share a beer with, Turco’s love for magic is infectious. With passion and reverence, his graceful movements build anticipation with a “wait for it” quality. He takes a more intimate approach to a slight of hand performance and shows the first trick he ever performed on stage, ripping up a paper and putting it back together again intact. Old-school magic tricks combined with the glitz of a sexy Vegas spectacle make for an extremely entertaining afternoon.
“Magic & Mayhem” is a nostalgic photo album that takes the audience on a trip through Turco’s beginning inspirations as a five year old in Atlantic City. You can instantly hear the love of his New Jersey roots where he was first inspired to enter the world of magic. Seeing every magic show he could and working one-on-one with the performers who became his mentors, Turco set out to master each trick and illusion. As the hard work paid off, Turco started filling performance halls in middle school and continued to learn and grow as a master illusionist. Throughout “Magic & Mayhem,” Turco offers behind-the-scenes peeks into his life of magic and illustrates a childhood dreams are truly made of on the Jersey Shore. Before juice heads and Snooki.
After a couple of years performing close to home at Bally’s in Atlantic City, Turco’s career was catapulted to the national stage on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” in 2011. With his charming showmanship and ability to make beautiful women appear out of thin air, he instantly won over the judges and the audience. Although he didn’t win the competition, a show on the Las Vegas Strip is not a bad consolation prize.
But back to the show. I found Turco’s ways to recruit audience members quite unique. Props like a beach ball and Nerf gun pulled up the excited and reluctant to help cast a spell. From card tricks, to incredible mentalist predictions, the most memorable to me was a tribute to Harry Houdini. A video of Houdini’s greatest hits began the segment. After two recruited men strapped a straight jacket around Turco, he proceeded with a stiff legged, tight-strapped dance of extreme discomfort. Taking less than one minute to wiggle his way out, the relief of freedom was palpable as he joked with his enthusiastic imprisoners.
He also collaborated with one of his dancers to show the truth behind a disappearing act, a la Penn & Teller. Although it started out well executed and cute, as it went on it lost steam. I just like to believe in the centuries-old craft of magic.
With a bit more polish and experience, Turco could find himself at the top of the magic elite. His message throughout the show is one of “believe in yourself, follow your dreams.” If a middle-class kid from New Jersey can do it, so can you. While some may feel the level of “Copper”-cheesy rise at certain points, it’s a good, uplifting message for these times. This is a charming and intimate show that should be chosen over walking the Strip on these hot summer days.
By Christina M. Parmelee