Five fabulous illusionists. One amazing night of magic.
That’s the basic concept of Champions of Magic, a long-running touring production featuring five expert practitioners of the magical arts that dazzle and astonish audiences for two hours using everything from close-up card tricks to big theatrical illusions that virtually defy description.
With more than 30 million online views between them, this cast of top magicians includes international award-winners that have been seen on The CW’s “Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” NBC’s “Caught on Camera” with Nick Cannon, “The Today Show” and “Access Hollywood Live,” among others.
The Champions of Magic team perform illusions with supercars, an escape from Houdini’s water torture cell, levitation above the stage, and a finale that cannot be revealed but is beyond explanation.
Local audiences can be mystified by Champions of Magic when the show comes to Segerstrom Center for two performances on Nov. 23.
One of the five cast members, and the only female, is Kayla Drescher. The Los Angeles native began learning magic at 7 years old and later honed her craft at The Magic Castle in L.A., where she still appears between stints in Champions of Magic.
Drescher, who specializes in close-up magic, has been touring with Champions of Magic for several years, and said the venues the show plays in are much larger than her normal intimate sites.
“When I was 12, I performed for 1,000 people, but this is the largest scale show I have been a part of. Once you start getting into 2,000 seat theaters, that is a lot of people,” she said during a recent phone interview. “With close-up magic, I never used a camera to connect with 2,000 people before; I am used to performing for 30 to 50 people, which is very intimate. You can see faces and learn names. This was a different experience.”
Drescher said she had to understand that a video camera was making eye contact with someone from the audience. She even studied episodes of “The Office” to see how the actors looked into the camera.
“A couple of magicians do it well, looking down the lens,” she said. “David Copperfield is the king. Very few magicians that do this, do it well. I am personality driven, so it makes it feel like I am connecting with you.”
Drescher emphasized that the camera is not used for edits or special effects.
“This is a live genuine experience,” she stated. “There are no camera edits, we are doing this live.”
So what drives someone to make a career of magic? In Dresher’s case, it’s a lifelong love of performing.
“I was dancing when I was 3,” she revealed. “In pre-school our teacher asked what we wanted to be, some kids said doctor or lawyer, I wanted to be Maria from ‘The Sound of Music.’ In first grade I started doing plays but usually flubbed the lines and the kids laughed at me, but I thought it was fun and wondered how I can do that again.”
Drescher also loved puzzles and science, but it took a chance stroll with her father past a magic shop that changed her life.
“It clicked in my head: It was a type of performance I could use to make people laugh,” she said. “It was very sciency, as far as why did this happen, it satisfied all the parts of my brain.”
As there is no magic school (“magic is a mentorship art,” said Drescher), she learned through experience. When she was 7, she was introduced to fellow magician Bill Andrews, who was 75. They bonded, and for the next 10 years he shared the secrets of magic with Drescher.
Drescher also attended magic camps, which she described as “a magic intensive. You are constantly doing magic from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. You get out of it what you put in. And the Magic Castle is a really great place to meet magicians and grow up in the magic community.’
Drescher said much like her smaller Magic Castle audiences, the magic fans on the Champions of Magic tour react in a big way.
“The reaction is amazing, audiences are great,” she confirmed. “We really click—we have strong personalities that audiences can latch on to, we have become friendly by the end of the show. You get to learn about us. There are some lovely moments in the show, you get to see our sweetness. It’s also a very funny show. We have an amazing ending that is high energy, fun, goofy, pyro. Audiences usually are leaping to their feet at the end of the show.”
Champions of Magic performs on Nov. 23 at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets start at $39. For more information, visit SCFTA.org or call (714) 556-2787.
For more information on Kayla Drescher, visit MagicInHeels.com.