David Copperfield, before your very eyes


What's the difference between a magician and an illusionist?

"When you call yourself an illusionist, you get paid 20 percent more!"

So jokes magician, make that illusionist, David Copperfield. He's in town this weekend, when his tour stops at the Lyric. Copperfield follows his joke with the phrase "LOL." That's computer-talk for "laughing out loud." Copperfield is speaking via e-mail. (At least we hope it's Copperfield, and not some illusion performed by a publicist.)

All kidding aside, there is a difference between magicians and illusionists. Usually, illusionists perform illusions, and the audience is supposed to sit back and watch in awe. Copperfield is known for performing grand illusions, such as making a jumbo jet disappear.

"It does seems like those big illusions get a lot of the attention in my career," he says. "But you know, I always find that audiences appreciate both the small intimate close-up illusions that I perform as well as the large, grand-scale illusion seen in my many TV shows over the last two decades."

That's why his performance at the Lyric will be a little bit different this year, Copperfield says. "The show this year is called U! because it is all about U! the audience. . . . The grand illusion this year is a feat whereby I make 13 people randomly selected from the audience vanish collectively on stage. This illusion not only keeps the audience guessing, but its techniques are so complex that even contemporaries in my field have told me they are astounded and left in bewilderment as to the methods."

Those illusions take a lot of time to make ready for the stage, Copperfield says. His signature illusion, "Flying," which involves making objects appear to fly rather than simply levitate, took nearly six years to perfect.

Copperfield travels with an entourage of magician's assistants he likes to call his "Magi," to help him with new material. "Illusions are usually introduced into the show one at a time, so the show is constantly evolving," he says.

And bringing in new material cuts down on the boredom factor on the road. Copperfield does nearly 500 shows a year. When he's not performing (or on the Internet), Copperfield collects magic memorabilia -- ranging from such items as Houdini's handcuffs and baby shoes to the gun that killed magician Chung Lee Soo when he attempted the "catch the bullet in your teeth" trick.

The collection is so large that everything is now housed in a large warehouse that he calls The International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts in Nevada.

It is the largest collection of its kind anywhere in the world, Copperfield says. "I am very proud of it. Scholars, journalists and others make appointments to utilize the historical information contained in the collection. I have one book from the 16th century that deals with revealing the secrets of the magician back then, so as to prevent them from being burned at the stake as witches -- a common practice during that time, done out of fear and ignorance."

And of course, there is always the business of perfecting new illusions. Copperfield says that there are still a few things he'd like to do. "I have always wanted to put a woman's face on Mount Rushmore, straighten the Leaning Tower of Pisa and make the moon disappear. So it looks like I have lots of work ahead of me!"


Who: David Copperfield

When: Today and tomorrow, 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Saturday, 1 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Where: Lyric Opera House, 110-140 W. Mount Royal Ave.

Tickets: $24.50-$42.50

Call: 410-481-SEAT for tickets, 410-494-2712 for information

Pub Date: 04/01/99

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