Mind reading. Suspending volunteers in mid-air from the stage. The three-rope routine. These are the types of phenomena audience members can expect from illusionist Bill Blagg’s show at the Genesee Theater in Waukegan on Saturday, March 7th.
If you have only experienced magic on television, or worse, on your smart phone, you have not truly seen a magic show. Or is it illusion? Is there a difference? While some illusionists might take offense at the word ‘magic,’ Blagg gets it, but doesn’t take it that seriously.
“This has been the age old question!” he said.
Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, resident Blagg said his interest began when he received a magic set from his grandparents as a kid and found the concept fascinating.
When he figured out how to make a quarter disappear, he showed his father. And dad’s jaw-dropping response triggered him (in a good way).
“He was genuinely amazed and fooled by what I did!” he told the Journal & Courier. “That initial gasp from him… that created that spark!”
For his tenth birthday, he received three Tarbell Course in Magic books by early 20th century magician Harlan Tarbell which cemented his fate to take the art of illusion to the furthest level.
“Those books became the foundation for everything that came after that,” Blagg said. These early beginnings have paved the way for what is now known as The Magic of Bill Blagg.
Today, Bill Blagg is one of the nation’s top touring illusionists. His theatrical brand of magic thrills thousands of people every year. Blagg’s live performances leave people in complete disbelief as he creates the impossible in a way only he can do.
Blagg prides himself in performing new, never-before-seen illusions.
When asked about his favorite trick, Blagg said it is one of the earliest tricks he attempted, but just recently mastered.
“It would be my three-rope routine,” he told The Smart Reader. “I studied it in the Tarbell books for years and could never get it right. It took me over 18 years!”
So much more than just a collection of illusions – an evening with Bill Blagg will stimulate all your senses. Rock music and fantastical lighting enhances the experience.
Some popular illusions include Blagg’s squeeze box – in which he contorts his six-foot frame into six inches. Another features Blagg getting locked in a glass box, hoisted ten feet in the air, and then… well, you will have to see it to believe it.
Another equally magical but more light-hearted illusion involves his little handkerchief friend — it does a crowd-pleasing dance across the stage and theater. The hanky illusion is one of Blagg’s oldest and closest to his heart — it was the act which won him the national Abbot Magic Get-Together competition at only 18 years old.
“I love that handkerchief,” he told the La Crosse Tribune. “Doing a show without him would be like Neil Diamond doing one without singing ‘Sweet Caroline.’”
Another fan favorite is straight out of the 1985 film ‘Back to the Future.’ Blagg pulls out his own hoverboard and summons his inner Marty McFly to coast around the stage seeming hovering over the ground.
Online reviews of The Magic of Bill Blagg have praised the show and Blagg himself as “lighthearted,” “authentic,” and something “the whole family can enjoy.”
“Bill is incredibly charismatic and truly a lively performer that engages with the audience,” Jeanine Holcomb of the Egyptian Theatre had nothing but praise for The Magic of Bill Blagg. “It’s a totally different level and a really fun family experience and an all-age experience.”
Don’t miss out when The Magic of Bill Blagg comes to the Genesee Theatre on Saturday, March 7th. Tickets start at $22 and can be purchased online at geneseetheatre.com.
By Jason Hedman
Exclusive Q&A with Bill Blagg
Q. This upcoming show on March 7th at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan is like a homecoming show for you. Do you have anything special planed for the audience?
A. This is our first time performing at the Genesee. It’s been a personal milestone for me so I just might have a few things in store for the folks that night!
Q. What do you say when people ask if your magic is real?
A. Can magic be real…sure. It depends on what you define magic as. The fact that I’m able to use my talents to help people “escape” their everyday reality for a few hours is magic to me!
Q. When did you first fall in love with magic?
A. I fell in love with magic when I was 7. I had learned a magic trick where you make a quarter disappear and I showed it to my parents. They looked at me like, “How did you do that?!” I seriously fooled them and from that day on I was hooked!
Q. Who were your influences growing up?
A. I’d be lying if I didn’t say my biggest influence growing up was David Copperfield. I was that kid who was glued to the TV when his annual special would come on. David showed me that it was possible to be a professional magician for a living. I remember seeing him live for the first time in Rosemont, IL when I was 15 and I left that night knowing 1,000% inside my body that I was born to do the same thing I just watched him do.
Q. Can you bring us down memory lane and tell us about the magic show you performed for your classmates at Beulah Park elementary school in your hometown of Zion?
A. I have a crazy memory and recall every single detail of my first show at Beulah Park. I was calling myself “Mr. Magic” at the time and I put together a small 15-minute show with some of the tricks I had learned from a magic set that I received for Christmas. My teacher let me make a sign on the class chalkboard advertising my magic show for that Friday during recess. I was shocked when everyone decided to stay in to see my magic show instead of go outside for recess! My classmates as well as my teachers were all very supportive. My big trick at the end of the show was that I made a box of crayons disappear and reappear inside the Kleenex box at the front of the classroom.
Q. Do you still have the original copy of Tarbell Course in Magic books by Harlan Tarbell that you received for you tenth birthday?
A. I sure do! My great-grandfather sent me his original 3 volumes from 1953 of the Tarbell Course in Magic for my 10th birthday. It was a huge surprise that ended up being a life-changing event in my life. I would study those books night and day for years learning many of the tricks inside. In fact, the books are a featured element in my current touring show. It’s really cool seeing how far things have come since I received those books.
Q. As a Carthage college graduate in Kenosha, can you tell us about the Carthage experience?
A. I had a great time and experience while attending Carthage. It was a pivotal time in my life where I was really looking to find my way professionally. The small class sizes and the personal interaction with the professors really paved the path for me to excel. In addition, their liberal arts education exposed me to a diverse course of study involving theater production, accounting, marketing, video editing, etc. I truly believe that if I hadn’t attended Carthage I wouldn’t be where I am today. It was a great experience and some of my closest friends to this day I met during my time there.
Q. What is it that you love about magic/illusions?
A. My love with magic/illusion has grown and changed over the years. Originally I loved how it made me feel “cool” that I could do something unique that people really liked. Over time it became a lot less about me and more about the feeling I was giving to others. Having the ability to use a talent to make someone else experience amazement or wonder really made me love the magic I performed. These days I’ve discovered a new “magic” in being able to use my magic to tell a story and connect with my audiences on a very human level while amazing them at the same time. Just like a singer / song-writer does with their music I’ve found a way to do the same with magic and I’m very excited about the future!.
Q. What is your biggest gig?
I’m not really sure how to define what our “biggest” show to date would be. In terms of size, we played an amphitheater in NY this past season with over 4,000 people in attendance which was really cool! This coming May I’ll be headlining and playing Las Vegas for the first time for a 3 day residency at South Point Casino & Hotel which we’re very excited about.
Q. How about your smallest gig?
A. My smallest show to date would be with an audience of one…my mom. I would always test out my new routines on her. If she cried I knew I was on the right track.
Q. Do you have a favorite magic trick?
A. This is a hard one! I love so many of the pieces in our show for various reasons. If I HAD to pick just one I’d say it’d be my 3 rope routine I do in our current show. I studied it in the Tarbell books for years and could never get it right. It took me over 18 years because it involves some heavy sleight of hand but I finally got it and it brings the house down. My second favorite is one of our grand-scale tricks where I instantly vanish while suspended over 10′ in the air. It took us years to create and the crowds love it!
Q. What is a day in the life like for you on tour?
A. A day in the life on tour is not as glamours as most would think. Most of the time we get into town around 2-3amsince we are traveling from the town we performed in the night before. Once we get in town it’s right to bed for 3-4 hours of sleep depending on what media is planned like morning TV and radio shows. We then have a team lunch and head to the venue to begin loading in all of our gear (lighting, sets, magic, etc) which takes about 5 hours to get ready. Then it’s dinner time which I usually skip because I don’t like eating before I perform. After the show we do meet and greets with the audience, load out and head down the road to the next city. That’s pretty much :it…the most I see of a town is the hotel, theatre and out the window on the way.
Q. What’s the difference between a magician and an illusionist?
This has been the age old question. The best way to put it is a magicians goal is to trick or fool people. To leave them going how’d he do that?! An illusionist takes the “magic” past the trick and presents it in a way where the audience is more captivated with feeling of what they just experienced and how that affected them as opposed to trying to figure out how it worked.
Q.Who is your favorite magician?
A. Till this day it’s still David Copperfield. Hands down the greatest!
Q. What is the biggest illusion you have pulled off?
Getting my wife to marry me…tada!
Q. You recently added a baby to your family, can you tell us how that has change your perspective on touring?
A. Since I haven’t been back out on the road since he was born I guess I don’t know what I’m in for yet. I’m nervous to leave home but I know he’s in the most-loving, wonderful arms of my wife. I will miss them both but I’ve made a decision to not be out on the road longer than 2 weeks at a time without making a stop at home for a few days. I’m sure the family will come out on select dates with us but as they say home is where the heart is.
Q. Can you make diapers disappear?
A. Ha! Not fast enough!
Interview conducted by Donny Stancato
Edited by Jason Hedman
The Magic of Bill Blagg Live! tour comes to The Genesee Theatre for one night only on Saturday, March 7th at 7:30 p.m.! Critics and audiences alike rave about Bill’s interactive magic and jaw-dropping illusions that will have you rubbing your eyes in disbelief. The show combines Bill’s mind-blowing magical talents along with his trademark, off-the-cuff personality to take you on a magical journey you’ll never forget. You’ll witness objects float in mid-air, vanish in the blink of an eye and so much more. It’s more than a magic show, it’s an interactive magic experience! Bill Blagg is changing reality one city at a time and Waukegan is next! Tickets start at $22 and are available by visiting geneseetheatre.com!