Abracadabra: traditional magic makes a comeback

Pick a card, any card…

By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor

Magic is a form of entertainment that is forever changing, from classic magic acts like pulling a bunny out of a hat to more elaborate illusions like the work of David Copperfield or Criss Angel. But last year, the film Now You See Me showed how entertaining traditional magic—like finding an audience member’s card in the deck, or making a bunny disappear—can be. So what better way for magician and stage illusionist Murray SawChuck to close the year than with a traditional magic show at the James Cowan theatre, featuring classic tricks that pay tribute to the magic he first performed in his hometown of Burnaby over 20 years ago.

SawChuck began his show—a routine taken straight from his Las Vegas performances—with a question for the audience: do you want to be entertained, or do you want to know how these tricks are done? His show offered both, entertaining audiences with illusions like making his beautiful assistant disappear while also demonstrating how a few of his tricks are done.

He explained how a vase of flowers disappeared from a table when hidden under a large cloth, showing that he hit a trigger mechanism that sent the flowers into the table leg. He also revealed how a double-sided domino card can show a different number of dots each time it’s turned over—such as five to one to four—with the secret being that he covers different dots on the card with his hands so it appears like the card changes.

The show also featured a variety of classic card tricks, such as tossing a deck of cards into the air and stabbing the correct one with a sword. There were also simple illusions, such as tearing up a newspaper and then reassembling it. These tricks showed that sometimes simpler is better, because the tricks look so basic that you might think you know how it’s done until SawChuck turns around and produces a shoe out of the newspaper he just reassembled—the same shoe he got from an audience member at the start of the show!

SawChuck closed the show with an illusion that would keep people guessing how he did it. He got his assistant Lefty (magician Doug Leferovich) to lock him in a large wooden crate with industrial chains and then hold a red curtain in front of the crate. Suddenly—poof!—SawChuck was the one holding the curtain and Lefty had disappeared. SawChuck went back to the crate and unlocked the chains, opening it to reveal his gorgeous assistant and wife Chloe Louise Crawford! Lefty was nowhere to be seen, until he returned to the stage for a final bow.

Magic is all about image and entertaining an audience, so whether a magician chooses a traditional style and performs classic tricks or attempts to shock an audience with an incredible illusion, as long as the audience has fun, that’s all that matters.