Review: A magic evening with Copperfield

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Over the past decade, I’ve watched David Copperfield walk through the Great Wall of China, make the Statue of Liberty vanish, and fly onstage. But on Sunday evening at Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall, I finally got to see him from a few feet away – and it was an experience that amazing, incredible, astonishing and shocking put together wouldn’t describe.

Strolling in for the last area showing of his &uot;Intimate Evening of Grand Illusion&uot; tour, I didn’t quite know what to expect. As I settled in my front-row seat (ahhh, the fringe benefits of being a reporter!), the lights went down, and the applause went up from the thousands in attendance. The sounds and lyrics of, appropriately enough, Steppenwolf’s &uot;Magic Carpet Ride,&uot; boomed from the speakers. Then came Copperfield’s voice.

&uot;If you could close your eyes, and be in one place, far away from your problems,&uot; he said soothingly, &uot;every day for as long as you wanted, where would you go?&uot;

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Several of his helpers walked out on stage, wheeling a box atop a cart. They opened the box to show that it was empty, and spun it around to show that nothing was attached to the box.

They closed it, and covered it with a sheet. Seconds later, a shadow appeared in in the box of a man on a bike. Then the front part of the box fell open, and it was the illusionist, sitting on the motorcycle often seen on his television shows.

When the new round of applause died down, Copperfield continued his introduction.

&uot;Everybody has a special place,&uot; he explained. &uot;Mine is a beach on an island in the middle of nowhere. I want everyone here to close their eyes and go to their place.

&uot;Go ahead,&uot; he said, &uot;I’m not going to steal your wallet! I’m going to go to my special place in the Philippines, and I’m going to take you all with me.&uot;

A few moments later, he told us to open our eyes, interrupting my trip to the beaches of Barbados, surrounded by rum-serving bikini-clad supermodel waitresses.

&uot;You’re still here!&uot; he teased.

It was time for another illusion. His assistants brought out a piece of steel, which they and volunteers from the audience banged with a hammer and stood on to ensure its sturdiness. It was placed on a frame, and Copperfield lay on a platform only a few feet below it. After another attachment-free spin, a large silver cloth was placed over the entire contraption.

Slowly, a hand seemed to raise through it, then pulled down. An arm followed, and went back. Then a larger form rose up through the cover, and it was pulled off. Not only had the magician passed through the steel, but he was somehow sitting on top of the unbroken piece. Little did we know that that would be one of the tamer tricks of the night.

&uot;Let me ask you all a big question,&uot; he said to the audience. &uot;What is the biggest miracle that happens on Earth every day?&uot;

A few shouted back the answer – childbirth.

&uot;That’s right!&uot; he said. &uot;That’s what I’m going to perform right here on stage.&uot;

Lip-synching to Paul Anka’s &uot;Having My Baby,&uot; he headed down into the crowd and grabbed a young female volunteer.

Bringing the lady onstage, Copperfield took out a briefcase on a glass nightstand, giving new meaning to the term &uot;one night stand.&uot; He handed the woman a rose, a box of chocolates, and an autographed photo of himself. Then Marvin Gaye’s &uot;Let’s Get It On,&uot; began to play, and Copperfield started to rub her shoulders.

That was all it took.

&uot;You’re pregnant!&uot; he told the girl. Then an assistant came out in a nurse’s outfit and held an ultrasound reader up to her stomach. On the screen above the two appeared an image of a ready-to-be-born infant.

Copperfield brought out a large card and placed it on the front of the stage. Then he called up two volunteers, and handed them large notepads. One of the women wrote the baby’s name, the other a number and suit of a playing card.

The first woman wrote the name Dick, drawing a new set of laughs. But Copperfield opened the card on the stage, and it somehow displayed the same name.

The second revealed that she’d drawn the jack of hearts. For this, Copperfield turned to the child. Amazingly, the kid on the image showed the card.

For his next trick, the magician got dangerous. With the help of two more volunteers, he brought out a poisonous African scorpion in a box.

&uot;I’m going to make this disappear,&uot; he said, &uot;and re-appear in Osama bin Laden’s paints!&uot;

With one volunteer holding the tray with the scorpion’s box, Copperfield handed the other a deck of cards, asking her to pick one.

With the jack of spades getting the pick this time, Copperfield, wearing gloves, held his poisonous pet up to the deck. Surprise of surprises, it also grabbed the jack.

Soon, it was time for one of his biggest tricks – and something that the sharpest set of eyes in the world wouldn’t be able to decipher.

It started by reading a letter from a man who had raised his daughter from toddlerhood after the death of her mother. As she grew up, they’d grown apart, and hadn’t seen each other for years. But he still had one dream for her – to visit the Philippines, her mom’s favorite place.

The young woman herself came onstage. Several volunteers were picked, and Copperfield snapped a Polaroid photo of them. Then another audience member came up, and picked a pair of letters – S and A, which Copperfield wrote on his arm in black magic marker.

&uot;Some critics will say, ‘Don’t insult my intelligence,’&uot; he said. &uot;This is not intelligence. It’s about imagination.&uot;

On the screen came an image of Copperfield’s friend in the Philippines, to whom he’d been speaking for the entire show. The friend had placed a sheet on a beach, right near the water.

Copperfield and the woman stood on a small platform, which was extended out over the audience by a crane. Then a cover rose up around them, falling away soon to reveal an empty stage.

But they were just getting started. On the screen, the friend quickly held up the cloth. When it dropped, the pair had appeared. But just to convince the skeptics, the woman pulled the photo that Copperfield had taken of the volunteers minutes before out of her pocket, and Copperfield pulled back his sleeve to reveal the ‘SA’ he’d written there. On the stage, the girl’s father approached, and the two shared a tearful reunion.

Copperfield stepped back behind the cloth, and vanished again. Then he reappeared in the midst of the Chrysler audience.

Some stood and cheered. Some shouted in amazement. Some just clapped really loud. Me, I couldn’t do any of that – I was too busy picking my jaw up from my waist.

As the show ended, Copperfield came to the front of the stage, and a fellow audience member jumped up to shake his hand. I got in line, and followed suit seconds later.

&uot;W-w-what was that?&uot; I stammered. &uot;How did you do that, that last trick?&uot;

&uot;It’s magic,&uot; he said softly, flashing his ever-present wide smile. &uot;Just magic.&uot;