The fabulous Champions of Magic comes to Camberley Theatre on March 31st, there are two performances – 2:30pm and then 7:30pm.
We spoke to Alex McAleer, Kayla Drescher, Fernando Velasco and double act Young & Strange, the cast of Champions Of Magic, ahead of their forthcoming tour. Here’s what they had to say…
Q: Magic is going through a particular rich vein of global popularity. What would you put that down to?
Alex: I don’t think it ever went away but more recently people have remembered that magic is something to experience live. I think people know that what they see on TV or YouTube might not be the whole picture so the more opportunities they have to see it live the better.
Young & Strange: In the past 25 years the success of David Blaine, followed by Dynamo and then the resurgence of David Blaine more recently has helped carve a new interest and fashion for magic. In the 80’s and 90’s it had a reputation as being too cheesy and dated. With the current wave of television talent, magic doing very well on the ‘Got Talent’ shows and magic being perfect for online viral videos, it’s brought magic right back into the 21st century.
Kayla Drescher: I credit the current popularity of magic to the amount of quality magic going around the world. By quality, I not only mean strong magic. I also mean a more relatable type of performance. You have magicians, like Derren Brown, who have had these killer tours, popular YouTube videos, and Netflix specials. Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us” continues to dominate television while focusing on making each performer be the best representation of magic. There are many magic touring shows that allow audiences to see magic live and up close. And most of these shows no longer spotlight the magician in the cape and top hat basically saying “I’m awesome, watch me” through his appearance and vanish of card fans. It’s now about being real and being human. It’s about showing a purpose through magic as an art. Because magicians are making themselves more relatable and therefore, more interesting, audiences now want to watch more than ever. Watching David Blaine actually get shot by a bullet was more emotion-invoking than any card trick ever could be. We are all striving for more connection with each other. Magic is able to provide just that; an intimate interaction with a group of people.
Q: Magicians are notoriously competitive with each other. How do you manage to all get along so well?
Fernando: We don’t get competitive with each other , but instead we work together to make one fantastic show.
Alex: We all have a genuine respect for each other’s acts and what we each bring to the show. Every time we go on tour it’s like a group of old friends or family coming together.
Kayla: We are all such completely different performers with different expertise and different styles. Because of that, there’s no need to compete with each other. Our main goal is put on a killer magic show each and every time we hit the stage. That can only be done if we support each other. There’s no need to be competitive when we all have the same goal and need each other to accomplish it.
Young & Strange: Our act is ALWAYS the audience’s favourite in the Champions of Magic show, so there is no need to be competitive or have any sort of ego. Compliments should go to the rest of the cast who are great fun to work with and who are also our very good friends. That really helps in the world of magic which is littered with magicians whose self-belief and importance outstrips their talent.
Q: Can you share some memorable moments with us? Both on stage and off?
Kayla: On stage, there was one show where, as we all walk out for the final bow, we see Sam Strange trip on some confetti and completely face-plant. He sprung up like nothing happened, fixed his tie, and joined the bow. It was hard to laugh right then as we’re in the middle of the show. Luckily, there was video, so we were all able to laugh well after the show was done.
Off stage, I really enjoyed when we were in Cleveland, Ohio and we all rang in the New Year together. The hotel bar was closed, but had the festivities on the TV. We huddled together at the glass door, counted down enthusiastically, and all spent the beginning minutes of 2018 as the Champions family. It was really a lovely way to start the year!
Young & Strange: It genuinely is a great fun show to be a part of. The relationship off stage with all the acts is terrific and constant ‘ribbing’ of each other’s performances is part and parcel of a standard day in ‘Champions of Magic’.
Q: Have you always wanted to be magicians? Any other careers you may have chosen?
Alex: When I was five I used to say I wanted to be a magician or a shopkeeper. As an adult I suppose I could have become an actor, designer, or cult leader.
Kayla: Not at all! I always loved magic, but I really wanted to work in the green energy field. I worked for a short while understanding Hydrogen Fuel Cell power and hoped to convince college campuses to switch their power source to fuel cell power. I also studied education and would have loved to combine my love of green energy and education to help save the world. But once I had a real-life job, I immediately knew I had to perform.
Young & Strange: We have had a passion for it since childhood and our friendship helped to inspire us towards making it our profession. Young’s dream job was working in the bakery section of a supermarket and he was subsequently sacked for overfilling the jam in the donuts. Magic always had a draw to it and we are fortunate enough to make a living from it. It won’t be long before that bubble bursts though and we are back to filling jam donuts….
Q: What was the first trick you mastered and who did you impress?
Alex: Probably the first piece of mind reading I ever learnt was a skill known as ‘muscle reading’ – I had a friend hide an object somewhere in the house and then asked them to think about its location until I found it. Took me about two minutes. It’s a bit like a game of ‘hot or cold’ but they only think about where it is, saying nothing aloud.
Young & Strange: The very first trick we learnt together as an act is an illusion that is still in the show today. It uses a cardboard box, in which one of us sits, and 23 wooden stakes which are rammed into the box at speed. We still make changes to the illusion 10 years on, so it’s unlikely we will ever consider the trick to be ‘mastered’. The very first time we performed it, we are adamant that the only people impressed by the illusion was ourselves….
Kayla: The first trick I really learned and did for a while was the cut and restored rope trick. This first made it’s appearance in my second grade school talent show, where my Dad and I wrote a “comedy” act together. I must say, the jokes still hold up! I still do some rope magic in my full show, today!
Q: Who would you most like to make disappear?
Young & Strange: Aspiring young magicians. Our position on this show is dubious at the best of times and it would only take some younger act to meet with the producer. It wouldn’t be long before we are back in Sainsbury’s filling donuts with the correct amount of jam.
Kayla: Trump. Can I also add his entire cabinet?
Q: Who is your greatest inspiration?
Alex: Too many to mention.
Young & Strange: We absolutely love large scale stage illusions. Interestingly, we believe that’s not a sentiment that is generally shared with the British public, who tend to prefer close up sleight of hand or mind reading. With this in mind we would always answer with David Copperfield as our greatest inspiration. His career and body of work is something that can only inspire and excite.
Kayla: Celine Dion. Sounds dorky, but I absolutely love her. Whenever I’m upset, frustrated, or questioning my career decisions. I play some Celine or watch an interview. I just love her class and dedication to being herself. She really influences me to work hard and be unapologetically myself.
Fernando: He has nothing to do with magic but the Mexican singer Alejandro Fernandez because of his passionate performances. He just gives the crowd all he’s got, and I love that. Another person who has nothing to do with magic is the Mexican boxer Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez whose story and background give me a lot of inspiration and motivation.
Q: Champions Of Magic is a pretty full-on show. Have you had any personal disasters on stage?
Young & Strange: Our role within the show is to provide the spectacle and bombastic finish. We always say what we lack in talent is masked by production. That production includes the use of Pyrotechnics and we have had a couple of near misses through our own stupidity. We have had 2 incidences where the theatre has been evacuated during the performance due to the pyrotechnics.
Q: When on tour what do you do to relax?
Alex: Before the show I like to hang around in the auditorium, sit in the stalls and get a feel for the place. After the show it’s just chatting with the cast and crew about that nights show.
Fernando: I really like to go out and explore whatever city I am in.
Kayla: I’ve fell back in love with reading recently. In school, when you HAVE to read, it’s a chore. But now that I can read at my own leisure with no one to report to, I am really enjoying it. I also watch a LOT of dog videos. I love giant dogs with big heads and like watching videos of them being silly.
Q: Describe the Champions Of Magic show in 5 words
Alex: See it to believe it.
Fernando: The Best Family Magic Show