Not Your Father’s Magic Show: Champions of Magic Bring a New Type of Illusion

September 2, 2018
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Alex McAleer performs in Champions of Magic. Photo courtesy COM

By Mary Ann Bourbeau |

RED BANK – On the heels of their sold- out shows in London’s West End, the Champions of Magic are coming to the Count Basie Center for the Arts for five shows from Sept. 7-9.

Audiences will witness the impossible, including disappearances, levitation, teleportation and a heart-stopping finale, all presented with lighting and special effects to rival the biggest theatrical spectacles.

The five magicians include Kayla Drescher, who was named the Next Great Magician by David Copperfield. Alex McAleer has the ability to tap into his audiences’ minds and read their thoughts. From straitjackets to water tanks and handcuffs to giant steel traps, Fernando Velasco faces some of the deadliest escape stunts ever performed. Thanks to their spectacular illusions and viral videos, Young & Strange have been featured on television shows around the globe.

We all have a genuine respect for each other’s acts and what we each bring to the show,” said McAleer. “Every time we go on tour, it’s like a group of old friends or family coming together.”

am Strange performing in Champions of Magic. The touring illusion show features a cast of five magicians. Photo courtesy COM

Young & Strange are childhood friends who spent their teenage years attempting, and failing, to make Las Vegas-style illusions with cardboard and tape. With little money, they were forced to innovate, creating original illusions and magic tricks.

“We have had a passion for it since childhood and our friendship helped to inspire us towards making it our profession,” said Young & Strange, who opted to answer questions together. “Magic always had a draw to it and we are fortunate enough to make a living from it.”

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These performers have been seen on television’s “Access Hollywood Live,” “The Next Great Magician,” “Good Morning Britain,” “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” and “Caught On Camera with Nick Cannon.”

“I credit the current popularity to the amount of quality magic going around the world,” said Drescher. “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. Most of these shows no longer spot- light the magician in the cape and top hat. There are many magic touring shows that allow audiences to see magic live and up close. Watching David Blaine actually get shot by a bullet was more emotion-invoking than any card trick ever could be.”

Young & Strange agree, citing the success of newcomers such as Dynamo, who walked across the Thames River and levitated himself alongside a double-decker bus full of passengers and above a London skyscraper.

“In the ‘80s and ‘90s, it (magic) had a reputation as being too cheesy and dated,” they said. “With the current wave of television talent, magic doing very well on the ‘Got Talent’ shows and being perfect for online viral videos, it’s brought magic right back into the 21st century.”

McAleer doesn’t think magic ever went out of style, but believes that it is much better experienced live.

“I think people know that what they see on TV or YouTube might not be the whole pic- ture, so the more opportunities to see it live, the better,” he said.

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Champions of Magic will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8; and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 9. Tickets are $29 to $59. For more information, visit

Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at

This article was first published in the August 30-Sept. 6, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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