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Casinos: Hard Rock has a young act up its sleeve

Justin Willman describes himself as “just a dude who does tricks.”
Justin Willman describes himself as “just a dude who does tricks.”

Justin Willman was 12 when he broke both his arms trying to ride a bicycle while wearing roller blades.

“It was a dangerous stunt,” Willman admits, “but, hey, I was 12.”

The injury wasn’t serious enough to require physical therapy, but his surgeon suggested card tricks to get help improve his dexterity, “so I learned to manipulate cards,” he explains, before adding, “to be honest I would probably try it again at my age if I could.”

Willman has his Tahoe debut Feb. 28 at the Hard Rock Lake Tahoe.

The young magician-comedian plays regularly at the Magic Castle and recently snared his own Comedy Central special, “Sleight of Mouth: Justin Willman,” which will debut March 21.

“I am very excited about that. The only other magician ever to have a Comedy Central special was the Amazing Johnathan, and he is one of my idols.

“Magic has gone through such a rich history. (David) Copperfield was the best, and still is, theatrical magician. David Blaine stripped the art away to red and raw. Me? I’m just a dude who does tricks.”

He’s also been a pretty popular host of “Cupcake Wars” on the Food Network. He’s hosted the show since 2009.

“I was in the right place,” Willman says. “Every comedian and magician attends hosting auditions, and I was what they were looking for. Even though I do not bake cupcakes and never have baked a cupcake. Apparently I’m very good at telling people they only have so much time to complete their cupcakes, to tell jokes while they’re baking them, and finally to tell them their cupcakes are not good enough.”

As for his stage act, “Every night I change it a little bit. I’ve got a closer now where I use somebody’s phone. It’s a math trick. I like to treat magic like a math equation.”

If Willman hasn’t been to Lake Tahoe, he has been to the desert for Burning Man. “I thought my magic could be what I gave to the community,” he says, “but I wound up not doing one trick, preferring to just immerse myself into the experience, which I loved.” (9 p.m.: $25, $35; hardrockcasinolaketahoe.com)

Also this week:

▪ Relive the British Invasion. Herman’s Hermits were filled with musical whimsy – “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am” – and Peter Noone is still the lead. They’re at Thunder Valley Feb. 27. (7:30 p.m.; $34.75; $44.75; thundervalleyresort.com) Saturday finds a tribute show with John and Dee Price performing in “Cash ’n’ Cline,” as in Johnny and Patsy. (8 p.m.; $40, $50)

▪ Harrah’s Tahoe has “Bruce in the USA,” a Springsteen cover band Feb. 28. (7:30 p.m.; $30.25; Ticketmaster.com)

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