For the past eight months, Las Vegas magician Murray Sawchuck has been in the running on NBC’s America’s Got Talent. In the semifinals that cut down the contestants to the Final 10, he produced the most sensational illusion of his career by vanishing an entire steam engine locomotive onstage.
It won him huge audience applause, rave reviews and even the judges’ admiration. It looked certain that he would go on to the finals. But he was ousted at the last minute when 10-year-old Jackie Evancho sang an Andre Bocelli opera song and got the winning semifinal vote.
Murray, noted for his signature platinum blond hair, contagious smile and black-framed Italian eyeglasses, hails from Canada but now calls Las Vegas home. He started magic tricks at age 7 when his parents, then living in Reno, gave him a four-trick Siegfried & Roy kit. He went on to win 24 awards for his global performances, was named a world champion and is the first magician to invent an act using CDs.
Murray Sawchuck on America's Got Talent
Jackie Evancho on America's Got Talent
He told me: “It all originally started back in January with the auditioning processes in L.A. Then they flew me to Dallas in March, and from there I kept going. I made it to the semifinals, as it went to the Top 10. I vanished a massive steam engine onstage. I did two live shows and two taped shows. The show started with 17,000 people, which wound up with 400 auditioning, and then back to Hollywood with 118 people, and then we played the Palms here.
“That’s where I made the Ferrari disappear onstage, and we were bumped down to 40 people. From there, we went to Hollywood live. That’s where I turned a girl into a tiger, and in split seconds the girl appeared behind the judges.”
I asked him if it was fair to say that the 10-year-old was the reason he was voted off? “Jackie Evancho is absolutely amazing. She is absolutely a gift. It’s like watching Tiger Woods play golf or Michael Jordan play basketball. It’s one of those things where it’s a God-given talent. She is sweet as a button; she is absolutely adorable. I was excited to be with her and all of us who got to the semifinals.
“I had a dream to redo what Terry Fator achieved on America’s Got Talent. I wanted to also show people I was as good as Nathan Burton was on the show. They really inspired me to keep going. I saw what Terry did and thought, man, a ventriloquist who became the ultimate success story with his own show on the Vegas Strip. I got to know Terry and knew my show had to be dramatic and amazing without turning into a disaster!
“I looked at America’s Got Talent for five years because they’d asked me to go on it. I was scared because I thought they’d poke fun at me. I thought the only way I’m going to do the show is if I come in looking at it from a producer’s perspective. What would they want a magician to do? That’s why the first episode, I put a girl in the box and instantly squished her, but she came back.
“Then I said, ‘let’s do a car,’ then ‘let’s have a tiger’ because that hadn’t been ever done on the show. Then I vanished the steam engine because it tied into my family history. My father and whole family has worked on the railway for about 150 years, except me. I decided to do tricks for a living.”
Murray, who performed for Jerry Lewis during the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon last weekend, heads to Indianapolis this weekend to host and open for the Pawn Stars Road Show, our hometown heroes from The History Channel’s Pawn Stars. But his sights are set for a showroom run on The Strip.
“I would love that. I would love to do things with bigger stuff. I really wanted to show America as well as producers out there that I’m a younger guy who can do amazing things with magic and can last at least 20 years on The Strip with a big show.
“I personally feel magic on The Strip needs a little rebirth. This last trick when I vanished the train, I brought in Don Wayne, one of the greatest illusion designers in our time. It’s going to be talked about for a long, long time.”
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.