David Copperfield continues to captivate with his juggernaut magic show at MGM Grand

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Evan Agostini/AP

It’s no illusion: David Copperfield is one of the all-time most successful performers on the Las Vegas Strip.

Fri, Jul 6, 2018 (2 a.m.)

“Forgotten” is certainly the wrong word. “Overlooked” would be better, or maybe “neglected.” But all of these descriptors seem inappropriate when searching for the right way to characterize the long-running and ever-changing Las Vegas show from the most famous magician in the world.

No one would ever forget David Copperfield, an icon in his industry, but somehow his current spectacular production at MGM Grand doesn’t generate the buzz expected from an entertainer of his caliber and fame. And yet it’s one of the most successful shows on the Las Vegas Strip by any measure and Copperfield remains one of the best-known and celebrated headliners in this city. He was ranked 24th on the Forbes 2017 Celebrity 100 List of top-earning entertainers and athletes, two spots ahead of Elton John and Gordon Ramsay (does a chef count as a headliner?). Further down the list are Caesars Palace stars Calvin Harris (40) and Celine Dion (55).

Copperfield also is one of the most present performers, playing 15 shows a week in a theater named after him for much of the last five years. He has a long history headlining in Vegas, having presented fantastic illusions at Caesars’ Circus Maximus Showroom before that venue was destroyed to create the Colosseum.

The secret to his longevity on the Strip is simple: Copperfield always astounds. Many in his MGM audience of 740 seats per show are old enough to remember him surviving a plunge over Niagara Falls, walking through the Great Wall of China and making the Statue of Liberty disappear during TV specials of the ’80s and ’90s. Those folks are now bringing their kids and grandkids to Las Vegas to see the master in person, and he doesn’t disappoint, even compared to the scale of those impossible feats.

In fact, “Live the Impossible” is the tagline of his current show, which he’s constantly tweaking but underwent its last major overhaul in the fall of 2013. When he does something similar to what you’d expect at any Vegas magic show, Copperfield always ups the ante. He makes someone levitate and disappear, but he does it in the middle of the audience, from a movable platform placed where a group of showgoers had vacated so they could stand onstage and welcome the disappeared back into existence. He asks you to place your cell phones inside a box on your table for the duration of the presentation, and when you retrieve it, you have an email sent and time-stamped from the very beginning of the show that details everything that happened after that.

Copperfield’s themes haven’t changed since his big TV special days. He’s still all about making dreams and wishes come true, however improbable. The final third of his current show is a sentimental journey dealing with his late father and a dream Copperfield had about his dad’s involvement with Area 51. A tiny alien named Blu plays a pivotal role in this adventure, and Blu’s actual presence and interactions with Copperfield are an unbelievable testament to the magician’s lifelong dedication to his craft and ability to take his game to the next level. He always astounds, and people keep coming back to experience the sense of wonder and nostalgia they get from this show.

David Copperfield is currently performing nightly at 7 and 9:30 p.m. with a 4 p.m. Saturday matinee at the David Copperfield Theater at MGM Grand (3799 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 866-740-7711) and more information can be found at mgmgrand.com.

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