Magician Bill Blagg didn’t make any tigers disappear at the Orpheum Theatre Friday night.
He also didn’t saw a woman in half or pull a rabbit out of a hat.
He did, however, entertain fully with the story of his attraction to magic and the work it took to become a headliner.
Accompanied by familiar music (including a tear-worthy “Forrest Gump” theme), the “Bill Blagg Live” show was like a magician’s TED talk, complete with illustrations.
Many – including a rope trick he said took 25 years to perfect – were familiar but they were packaged with a heart-warming story about a great grandfather he never knew and the support he gave him through letters.
Based in Wisconsin, Blagg was an award-winning magician at 18. He borrowed $25,000 to mount a show and found himself working a 9 to 5 job just to repay the loan. Leaving the passion behind, he rediscovered magic on a vacation in Italy. Laced throughout his story: levitating tables, disappearing bottles, dancing handkerchiefs.
While a video screen was too small for most of the audience to appreciate, Blagg had other props (like a magic stand his father made) that helped convey his message of support.
People are also reading…
“BBL,” in fact, was a lot like an autobiography. While a few more big tricks might have been nice, the ones he showcased were impressive: He arrived in an empty glass box, levitated like he was in a hot-air balloon and disappeared from stage, only to appear in the audience.
Blagg joshed with folks in the audience, too, and did one of those “guess the numbers” things that came back at the end of the show.
A puzzle-like bit – that included the names of nine cities – was a way to involve all of the audience but, somewhere in the middle, I tapped out.
More impressive were his dance moves (to “Uptown Funk,” no less) and a goofy “vanishing bandana” bit.
Blagg touched on the 14-month pause in live performance (he enjoyed the time with his newborn son) and offered plenty of thanks to the folks who make it possible for acts to perform in places like the Orpheum.
The crowd appreciated his storytelling ability (even when the sound went out) and got a handful of numbers that could be dandy options for the next Powerball.
An amiable performer, Blagg took the mystery out of the profession and showed how it really takes work, dedication and, most of all, passion to perfect.