Magicians are a tight show-business group. They keep track of each other, they know what each other’s illusions are, and they are well aware of great talent – past, present and up-and-coming.
They also have a tendency to mentor each other – John Thompson, one of the greats at manipulation, will teach those he deems worthy; Siegfried and Roy took on Darren Romeo as their mentee; and so on.
Rob Lake, who opens his show this week at Harrah’s Tahoe for a run through the holidays, had his mentor-sponsor as well. It started when “as a kid I attended a magic show in Branson and knew right then and there I wanted to be a magician.”
The magician was Kirby Van Burch, well-known in the industry with multiple ties to Nevada showrooms. He helped Lake start his career after the kid did all the usual – “read every book in the library about magic, master a few card tricks, play a few children’s parties.” Lake went on to build quite an impressive résumé.
Most famously, perhaps, was when in 2013 he made an armored truck containing a million dollars appear outside the FedEx Forum in Memphis. He became the youngest magician in history to receive the Merlin Award for International Stage Magician of the Year in 2008. He has been a consultant on productions for stage and screen, including helping companies turn a brute into a prince in more than 800 productions of “Beauty and the Beast.”
A conversation with Lake, 33, reveals his love of his craft. He has studied it, he knows its history, and he knows where he fits into it. His magic is story-based, much like David Copperfield, setting each illusion into a narrative context (“What if we were to discover Atlantis? What would it be like?”). He loves the levitation and likes the high-tech look of video screens. And he enjoys each illusion itself, “feeling sort of like Doug Henning, who always looked like he was delighted the trick worked.”
The four semi-tractor-trailer loads containing his show will arrive at Harrah’s Tahoe this coming week for his string of performances – 7:30 p.m. Dec. 22-23 andDec. 26-28; 4 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 30 and Jan. 1; 7:30 p.m. Jan. 6; 4 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 7 ($34.95, children 6-12 $20.95; Ticketmaster)
And another long run opens next Tuesday at the Grand Sierra in Reno: the intriguing “Cirque Mechanics: Pedal Punk.” The preview video promises a fast-paced cirque style show (lots of acrobatics) centered on all things circular, from hoops to bicycles, done in Steampunk style. (8 p.m. daily starting Dec. 20 through Dec. 30, except Dec. 23; $11-$26; grandsierraresort.com)