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Casinos: ‘Master of Illusion’ set to spellbind at Harrah’s

Taking a bow are, from left, West McDonough, Jonathan Pendragon, Jacosa Kato and Liberty Larsen.
Taking a bow are, from left, West McDonough, Jonathan Pendragon, Jacosa Kato and Liberty Larsen.

There’s almost a surfeit of magic in the Reno-Tahoe area right now with two major productions occupying two of the area’s major stages: “Madame Houdini” with multiple big-illusions and colorful choreography at the Eldorado through April 19, and the stage version of the CW’s “Masters of Illusion” at Harrah’s Tahoe on Saturday.

The Harrah’s show includes a face familiar to anybody versed in magic: Jonathan Pendragon.

“Illusion” has a connection to the legendary Harry Blackstone Jr.. And because of that name, it’s become a powerful force in industry, Pendragon said.

“The live show is an obvious extension,” he explained. “See (magicians) on camera and then see them on stage.”

Pendragon and his former wife, Charlotte, became famous in magic circles in the mid-’90s, creating among other things the popular illusion in which a woman crawls through a man’s chest. Earlier in his career, Pendragon had been a stunt double in movies, his most famous scene seeing him perform back hand-springs as John Belushi in “The Blues Brothers.”

Pendragon is well-known around Reno for another performance. In 1993, he was headlining a show called “Spellbound” at the Reno Hilton. In it, he would jump up on a giant cage holding a Bengal tiger that he had just made to appear. One day, the tiger snared his pant cuff. Pendragon reached down to free himself. The tiger got his arm. Some audience members were even “aah”-ing until his shirt turned bloody.

“I lost half of the usage of that arm and never got it back,” Pendragon said.

“Masters of Illusion” had its contract extended for yet another season on the CW network, and Pendragon is emceeing the show as well as performing in it.

“We’ve got a great lineup of talent – fun, high energy and young,” he said. “I’m sort of their mentor, the last man standing, the oldest guy out there.” (7:30 p.m.; $47; Ticketmaster)