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‘America’s Got Talent’ champ Shin Lim predicts future on the Strip

Updated November 2, 2018 - 5:21 pm

I have always compared “America’s Got Talent” to the old “Ed Sullivan Show.” What variety! If the next Senor Wences or a budding Topo Gigio is out there, the“AGT” producers will find ‘em.

This year’s champ is a genuine master of magic, Shin Lim, who headlines the “America’s Got Talent Live!” lineup this weekend at Paris Theater the show performs five times at the Strip venue: At 7:30 p.m. today, and again at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Lim, joining Mat Franco as a magician who has won the “AGT” championship, has so obviously earned his title. The 27-year-old illusionist blew my mind in about 90 seconds with a simple card trick Thursday at Paris Theater.

In short, I picked the Queen of Spades from his fan of cards, then returned the card to the deck. I shuffled. He took the deck and asked, “Top or bottom?” “Bottom.” The Queen appeared on the bottom. Then I said, “Top!” And she had moved to the top. Then, without touching the cards, Lim moved the Queen’s image to a tattoo on his chest.

He said he’d taken the ink from the face of that card and moved it to his left pectoral, then flipped the card over to reveal a totally blank face.

I had to tell him, “This is unfair, because you actually are magic. Most people have to learn these tricks. I am going to move we have your championship revoked.” He laughed and said, “Not going to happen.”

The live roster is further filled out by “AGT” Season 13 finalists comedians Vicki Barbolak and Samuel J. Comroe, trapeze artists Duo Transcend, and the rocking teen vocalist Courtney Hadwin.

Highlights from my variety of interviews at the Paris:

Shin Lim wants in

The Season 13 champion is eager for a residency in Las Vegas — and really, what entertainer isn’t anymore? But Lim has obviously attracted energy from resort operators on the Strip.

“I’ve been approached by some of the hotels — not this one — but it’s good to have choices,” the 27-year-old showman said. “I want to do a North American tour, and the kind of residencies that have been offered are three days out of the month, at a theater this size, and I like that idea.”

Lim was originally inspired by such greats as David Copperfield and Lance Burton, especially Burton, whose FISM-dove manipulation act caught Lim’s fancy when he was a youngster.

“Something about the dexterity and sleight-of-hand — I knew I didn’t want to float in the air, or climb out of boxes or make girls vanish,” Lim says. “I wanted the hardest amount of skill, which was to make things appear out of nowhere.”

Lim will share a production with a familiar Vegas magician, ex-“Mindfreak Live” cast member Chloe Crawford, in the lineup for “The Illusionists — Magic of the Holidays,” which runs at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway from Nov. 23 to Dec. 30.

Having overcome carpal-tunnel syndrome, which derailed his career as a concert pianist, Lim is settled into his place as a star magician. “I got into magic to get attention, because I thought it would get me a girlfriend,” he says, laughing. Did it work? “She’s right there.”

Lim then motioned to his fiance, Casey Thomas, who has worked as his stage assistant and was recording our chat on video. As he says, “I just keep doing magic tricks.”

The duo transcends

Married couple Mary Wolfe-Nielsen and Tyce Nielsen spent their honeymoon in Vegas eight years ago.

“We saw five or six Cirque shows,” Tyce said. “That was kind the reason we wanted to spend our honeymoon here, we have a lot of friends in Cirque and we wanted to see what was happening with aerial acts. We view this art with a different set of eyes, a different appreciation for what is onstage.”

The couple say the art form is enjoying a Renaissance, especially in Las Vegas, where it has been advanced with a modern spin and the advanced use of humor. “We love ‘Absinthe,’ because that show uses aerial acts in a really imaginative way, and it’s funny,” Mary said.

The do will perform a version of their trapeze act that “broke” during their “AGT” run, when Mary slipped through Tyce’s hands and fell about 10 feet to the stage. “Danger is part of the advancement,” Tyce said.

The couple are starring in a stage show at Eldorado in Reno though Nov. 11, then going on tour. “We wanted to reach an audience, go to the finals, and see if people like the stuff we do,” Tyce says. “It’s been unreal for us.”

Comroe the Confident

Comroe offers no false modesty in his ride to the “AGT” finals. “I’ve seen a few comics I know go far in the show, and I really felt I could make the finals,” Comroe, who has Tourette Syndrome and works that condition into his live act. “I’m super-ambitious. I felt my story and style was perfect for the show.”

Comroe’s father and three sisters live in Las Vegas, and he appears a couple times a year at the L.A. Comedy Club at the Stratosphere. He said the most daunting challenge of performing his material in front of an audience was simply to gain confidence.

“Overcoming stage fright, pre-show nerves, was tough,” he said. “I thought, I’m funny, and what I’m writing is funny, now I need to feel confident enough to be funny and connect with the audience. A comedy crowd knows when you’re nervous. They can feel it. You need to know who you are to succeed.”

Talk the taco

Barbolak, who broke into national fame at age 60, just headlined the Laugh Factory at Tropicana last week. The woman known as the “Trailer Park Mom” has developed an entirely new opening, centered on Vegas, for the “AGT.”

I worked it out with my daughter at Del Taco,” Barbolak said. “That’s where we got our inspiration. I love Del Taco food.”

Barbolak is busier than ever on tour, and has no plans to move out of her resident community in Oceanside, Calif. “We have the second-best trailer in the park now,” she said. “It’s up on a hill. I look down on all the other trailers. I am so happy!”

She’s kinda quiet

At age 14 Hadwin made her presence felt with her kinetic, high-volume rock performances through her “AGT” run. She performed “River Deep, Mountain High” by Tina Turner in her final appearance and counts Little Richard, James Brown, Janis Joplin and Mick Jagger as influences.

“I just wanted to get in front of the judges,” she said. “I’m really happy with how it turned out, what they said about me.”

A full-scale rocker onstage, Hadwin is a shy teenager away from the spotlight. Asked what she thought of Vegas on her first visit to the city, she said, giggling, “It’s loud.”

But Hadwin was eager to see a few shows, especially, “The Beatles Love” at the Mirage. She also said, looking at the “AGT” set, “I can’t wait to get on that stage. I just want to get up and sing.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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