Magician Steve Wyrick has some grand illusions up his sleeve. In his signature stage move, he conjures a twin-engine Piper Cherokee 180 airplane seemingly out of the air.
At the same time, Wyrick, whose “Breathtaking Magic” production runs through April 29 at the Golden Nugget Atlantic City, is reaching into a deeper bag of tricks.
“Much like a singer or songwriter tells a story, I don’t just push an illusion to have it on stage,” Wyrick says. “Everything is based on a moment in time for myself. I use magic as my vehicle to illustrate my story and get my message across.”
The plane illusion, for example, is part of a complex set piece that mines childhood memories of his grandmother and father, to convey a message of hope for the audience. The audience “sees” a 6-year-old version of Wyrick with a model airplane interacting with his father, who taught flying, and his grandmother — both of whom are now deceased. According to Wyrick, his grandmother would try to impart her life lessons while she was doing her knitting.
Without giving too much away, Wyrick literally ties together his childhood memories and the large-scale illusion with yarn similar to what his grandmother used for her handiwork. For those who are spiritually minded, “there will be a light at the end of the tunnel,” Wyrick says, describing the illusion’s impact.
Other illusions performed by Wyrick over the course of the 90-minute show offer some lighter “wow” moments. One segment involves him playing a version of Ms. Pac-Man, in which the lines between the game and reality blur.
Another illusion in a similar vein riffs on the classic saw-the-girl-in-half trick. In Wyrick’s version, he starts off playing a traditional pinball-style game, and then pulls elements from the virtual world of the game into the theater.
Despite the seeming realness of the latter situation, Wyrick promises there won’t be any body parts left behind — it’s all about fooling the mind.
“Everything I do is an illusion — I claim to have no supernatural powers, he says. “You would swear up and down you’re actually seeing what you’re seeing. If I was really cutting someone in half, I would have a series on Showtime and my name would be Dexter.”
The Las Vegas-based Wyrick — who has appeared on “The Late Show With David Letterman,” “American Chopper” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” — also likes to mix up the proceedings with smaller-scale tricks that involve the audience.
For one, he borrows wedding rings from three women, puts them in a wine glass, gives them a swirl and when he lifts them out, they have become linked Wyrick then separates and returns the rings to the women and asks that they examine them, to show the rest of the audience they’re not props.
“I’m really into letting the audience touch and examine and feel things,” he says. “It’s very important for my credibility as well. There are no magicians that do the things I do as far as letting people touch and examine things. It lets people see magic on a completely different plane.”
For anyone who’s seen Wyrick perform during this run or a previous stint at Harrah’s Resort in 2006, it won’t be the same show if you come back.
“I love to constantly change the show and add new illusions,” he says. “If someone comes to see the show and are inspired by my message, they will be able to see different illusions at different times.”
Not to mention, a trick that seems cutting-edge today can quickly become dated, given the pace of technology.
“I really want to stay ahead of the curve,” Wyrick says. “I feel like I’m doing things above and beyond the top people in my field. That’s what keeps me pushing the envelope. As a magician and as an illusionist, I use technology to keep pushing the limits in time.”
The magic of stagecraft
Illusionist and magician Steve Wyrick finds inspiration for his performances from being a fan himself. Wyrick regularly attends a wide range of live events, including rock, pop and country concerts and Broadway shows.
“I don’t copy other artists, but I (sense) the special feeling they’re giving the audience,” he says. “It inspires me to create my own illusions.”
A recent show by Wynonna reminded Wyrick of the most important lesson for anyone who wants to be performer: Be true to yourself and your own “brand.”
“I’m a huge country fan, and was familiar with some of the Judds’ music, but had never seen Wynonna in concert,” he says. “I love to see how different artists interact with their fans. I didn’t know what to expect, and I walked away a fan. I have a real laid-back persona on stage because I’m real laid back in real life. Wynonna is just herself and her fans adore her.”