"My philosophy has always been that magic is a performing art in the same way that music or dance or Broadway is, but people don't see it that way because magic has never really been presented like that," said Kevin Spencer, who headlines the production, along with his wife, Cindy. "People always kind of think of a magic show and either they think of a birthday party guy, which is fine, or they think of a Vegas-style production. And what we really wanted to do was wrap our show around great theater.
"So we've taken all the really cool elements of Broadway -- the scenery, the lighting, the music, the movement -- and we've wrapped that with the high energy of a rock concert and just put it behind some really awesome, original illusions."
Spencer looks to engage and entertain the audience, performing various illusions that were created with his production in mind. One of these tricks is a modern-day version of one performed by Harry Houdini in the early 1900s.
"We have some really cool theatrical illusions," Spencer said. "One of the things that I will be doing in the show in Cartersville is a recreation of a 1914 illusion that Harry Houdini performed, where he walked through a solid brick wall on the stages of Broadway. He only performed this trick for a few months, and then he stopped performing it and he never took it on tour. [There was] a lot of speculation among the magic world about why he stopped, but nobody knows for sure. It got really great reviews, and it was a really amazing illusion. Since 1914, no other magician has ever attempted this illusion live on the stage.
"So the guys who create for me, called me, and said, 'Hey, how would you like to walk through a wall?' Well, I'm a magician -- how do you say, 'No, I'm not interested?' So we came up with a very hip, contemporary, sophisticated way to recreate that illusion in the 21st century instead of the 1914 version of it. So we use eight solid concrete cinder blocks that we purchase locally. They're on the front edge of the stage when people come in, so they have the opportunity to thoroughly examine them. They stay there through the entire show until we're ready to use them. Then a member of the audience comes up on the stage while we construct the wall. And while he holds onto the wall, I physically pass from one side to the other. It's a really awesome trick. It's a great piece of magic, but it's a really beautiful piece of theater. The dialogue that goes with it and the lighting that goes with it, it's just a really beautiful piece."
Spencer debuted the Houdini illusion more than a year ago in Hong Kong. Touring the world with their production, the couple are on the road about nine months each year, performing between four and eight shows a week. While their offering began small, with equipment fitting in the back of a cargo van, it now has grown to become the second largest touring illusion show in the country, transporting about 12 tons of equipment in a 65-foot semi, he said.
"With the Entertainment Series -- it's presented by Century Bank -- we're constantly trying to find different things to mix in for the audience," said Matt Santini, administrator for The Grand. "They have these theater conferences that I go to. Kevin and Cindy Spencer, they've got a real presence there. The reviews from other theaters are consistently positive.
"Certainly the awards that they have won, being named International Magicians of the Year, puts them on par with some of the biggest names in magic. Like I said, it's an Entertainment Series [so] we're looking for different ways to entertain the audience. Based on their reputation and the large-scale show that they do, I feel it's worthy of being in The Grand Theatre Entertainment Series."
Tickets for "Spencers: Theatre of Illusion," which need to be purchased in advance, are $25 for orchestra level seating and $20 for balcony level. For more information or to obtain tickets, call 770-386-7343 or visit The Grand Theatre ticket office, 7 N. Wall St. in Cartersville, Monday through Friday from 8 to 11 a.m. and 12:30 to 5 p.m. Further details about the Entertainment Series can be found online at www.thegrandtheatre.org.
"It is the first time and I am so excited," Spencer said, referring to performing in Cartersville. "For me, we get to go back to a lot of places -- over the years, we've done a lot of theaters a number of times -- but I always get the most excited about places that we've never been to before. So I was so excited when they called us from The Grand and said, 'We'd be really interested in having you folks come into the theater here.'
"That's one of the great things about being on the road -- is that you're in a different city on a different stage with a different crew and a different audience every single day, and I love that. I love meeting people. I love bringing something new and different to a community. So I'm very, very excited about this show. I think it's going to be great fun."