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Production weaves its magic at Greek Isles

Fri, Jul 1, 2005 (8:31 a.m.)

For a town that prides itself these days in catering to adults, Las Vegas has some pretty darn good family entertainment.

One of those that may be overlooked because of its location is the "World's Greatest Magic Show" at the Greek Isles, which features a cavalcade of award-winning illusionists who don't rely on sex to sell their talent.

The cast of world-class acts varies from time to time, but producers usually manage to engage a variety of interesting performers who are among the best in their field.

In May the International Magicians Society named the production Show of the Year and singled out several of the regular performers as recipients of its Merlin Award.

Kevin James was named Most Original, Paul Kozak was named Entertainer of the Year, The Majestix (Michael Giles and Stacy Jones) were named Illusionists of The Year and Joseph Gabriel was honored for Best Manipulations.

The award winners were supported during a recent performance by magicians Derek Roberts and Chris Randall (who provided a pre-show show); Billy Ferguson (warming up the audience); and brilliant French illusionist Gaetan Bloom.

Bloom spent several years as a headliner at the Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris before joining the Las Vegas cast of "La Femme" at the MGM Grand ("La Femme" is produced by the owners of Crazy Horse).

The $61.50 general admission and $72.50 VIP ticket prices might be a little steep for an off-Strip show at a lackluster venue that gets very little attention, but there are a lot of performers who cram a lot of magic into the 90-minute revue.

After Ferguson does his bit to prepare fans for the show, host Kozak takes over, popping in between acts to demonstrate his sleight-of-hand.

Kozak is a large man, about 6-foot-4, who has a fondness for zoot suits and bills himself as the "Swing'n Hepcat."

His expertise includes magic and jokes ("I've been married four times. I'm pretty good at making wives disappear -- the only problem is when you make a wife disappear, everything disappears with her," and, "I have a 12-year-old daughter. She lives in Florida with the plaintiff.").

Kozak is a warm, personable, bear-like man who delights in his coolness and in amusing young people with his illusions as he ambles around the stage.

Following Kozak's opening bit is Joseph Gabriel, a sharp contrast to the host.

Gabriel, dressed in a tuxedo, is more aloof, more sophisticated in his approach to magic as he turns scarves into doves or parakeets or colorful parrots. While Kozak prances around the stage, mugging and pulling fans into his world, Gabriel is more distant and more purposeful in his measured movements.

One of the interesting aspects of the show is that each act differs from the other -- all of the performers have their own personality and style and particular brand of magic.

The Majestix -- with Michael Giles and Stacy Jones -- often work with tigers, but at the Greek Isles they have foregone the big cats for a levitation routine that amazes fans.

They also perform a folding-box bit, with Jones seemingly starting out in a large box which is then folded to about the size of a large hat box.

Bloom is one of the highlights of the evening. His Chinese stick routine is particularly entertaining (a cord seemingly is runs through two sticks, but the sticks aren't attached). And you'll get a kick out of his disappearing shoe gag.

The evening ends with James, one of the most innovative magicians around. He is a low-keyed, unassuming performer who allows his magic to draw all of the attention -- whether it's drawing a bowling ball and then the ball dropping from inside the artist's pad or creating a blizzard from a moist piece of paper rubbed between the palms of his hand.

In one bit he brought forward a child -- a girl perhaps 5 years old -- and astounded her by creating a rose out of paper, levitating the rose and then turning the paper flower into a real one.

The girl's smile lit up the room in a truly magical moment.

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