David Copperfield is considered one of the greatest illusionists of all time and he brings that talent to his eponymous theater at the MGM.
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(This show was reviewed in the November 2015 LVA; some of the information contained in this review may no longer be accurate.)
David Copperfield has won more than 20 Emmys and holds 11 Guinness World Records, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was knighted by the French government, and is generally considered to be the greatest commercial illusionist of his time. For decades, he was a Vegas headliner, but he now appears (out of thin air on a Harley) up to 15 times a week, 40 weeks a year, in the David Copperfield Theater at MGM Grand.
This show, predictably, is all about David Copperfield — no bikini-clad assistants, no showgirls or flashy production numbers. He’s a storyteller at heart and keeps up a running narrative, weaving elements of biography, fantasy, and humor into a performance that’s certainly one of the warmest and most personal in Las Vegas. To enhance the effect of being approachable and obliging, his show is big on audience participation (see "Onstage with Copperfield" below this review). It all works perfectly in the intimate 740-seat showroom.
That said, the illusions themselves fall within the limits of the genre, notwithstanding the giant video screens, grandiose score (which sounds like a cross between Chariots of Fire and 2001: A Space Odyssey), techie feats involving audience cell phones and wristbands, and engaging chatter. It’s essentially box illusions big and small, with some disappearances/reappearances, predicting the future, hand magic, and a duck (with its hilarious slow-motion “replay”). The show bogs down slightly during a drawn-out bit with an ET-like alien, but it picks up again with the big tricks involving a UFO and T-Rex.
There’s not a bad seat in the house and applying the ubiquitous $16-off preferred-seating discount, a $175-for-two ticket price is below that of the other superstars and Cirque. And given Copperfield's credentials — he’s sold 40 million tickets and grossed $4 billion, more than any other solo entertainer in history (it’s the most-purchased ticket at LasVegasAdvisor.com) — plus his personable style, this is a show that any Vegasphile or illusion fan has to see once.
Onstage with Copperfield
[Editor’s note: The following was written by LVA Senior Editor Deke Castleman.]
The first few Frisbees, flung into the audience to select random participants, missed me by a mile, but the fifth came right at me. No way to duck or deflect, if I hadn’t put up my hand in the nick of time, it would’ve nailed me right in the nose. The next thing I knew I was on my feet with a microphone in my mug, in full view of everyone on the giant video screens, as I tossed out random numbers and revealed the color of my boxer shorts for the prediction bit.
Every night, dozens of audience members wind up as part of the Copperfield show, but my role seemed never-ending. I threw the Frisbee (to select the next participant), marched onstage, collected five keys from other participants, unlocked a padlock, clutched a bundle throughout the trick, and nearly became a human sacrifice when a full-size Lincoln convertible settled onto a post I was hugging on my knees.
Throughout the experience, bewildering as it was, I was acutely aware of the stage managing: male assistants dressed in black nudging me hither and yon to hit my mark on one of the numerous X’s on the stage floor (presumably, so I didn’t fall into any trap doors, decapitate myself on a wire, or upstage the star).
For those who suspect that audience-participation shows are fraught with “plants” who are part of the act, I can attest that I certainly wasn’t (damn Frisbee!), which made me a believer in magic … almost.