The quartet of magicians are seated around a circular table at the Tropicana Lounge, just outside the Tropicana Theater entrance. The house sound system is playing the music of a great band, the Doors, with “Roadhouse Blues.”
So the question to this group is, “Is a band of magicians like a band of musicians, in that they need to rehearse and work together to become a cohesive unit?”
Collectively, the answer is, “Yes. Absolutely. One hundred percent.”
This is how the “Band of Magicians” hits the Strip. The foursome of James Galea, Joel Ward, Brett Loudermilk and Stuart MacLeod opens at Tropicana Theater on Oct. 26. Tickets, from $39 to $99, go on sale Monday morning (go to TropLV.com or call 800-829-9034).
Breathlessly billed as “The World’s First Magic Supergroup,” the performers will work in the 7 p.m. slot Wednesdays through Mondays, before the “Cherry Boom Boom” rock ’n’ roll boogie show that follows at 9 p.m. “Band of Magicians” steps into the time and space created by the departure of Jan Rouven, whose show was swiftly spiked after the German-born magician was arrested by FBI agents in March, charged with one count of receipt or distribution of child pornography.
The hotel has not featured a magic show since, but opted for “Band of Magicians,” featuring renowned magician Justin Willman, who has appeared on several talk shows across the U.S. and is also the host of “Cupcake Wars” on Food Network. But Willman is not part of the show at Tropicana (his schedule won’t allow for such a sit-down commitment).
Instead, a lineup of bright, expert magicians has been assembled to carry “Band of Magicians” on the Strip. Founder and co-producer Galea, a veteran of two “Band” tours of Australia, is the de facto frontman, just because, “I like to talk a lot. I’m the Penn of the group.” Loudermilk, known in Las Vegas as the sword-swallowing side act of “Vegas Nocturne” at Cosmopolitan’s Rose. Rabbit. Lie.; sleight-of-hand and close-up artist Ward; and British comic illusionist MacLeod fill out the lineup.
This group was built for Vegas. Between now and October, as Loudermilk says, “We will become a band.”
The concept is for the magicians to interact, act as their own onstage assistants and even real-time directors. There is to be constant conversation, among themselves and audience members, as the familiar elements of a magic production are unveiled.
“When you are working solo, it’s like when you are a pianist or a guitarist – there is only so much you can do,” Galea says. “When you bring other band members in, all of a sudden it comes together.”
The guys agree that because of its shrouded-in-secrecy characteristics, the magic culture is not terrifically open to collaboration.
“Now we are bringing our tricks together with the idea that all that is important is creating the best show for our audience,” Galea says. “That’s what allows you to work without fear of someone taking your trick or stealing your art.”
The “Band of Magicians” is setting up on what can be called the “Magic Corner” of Tropicana Avenue and the Strip. To the north is David Copperfield at MGM Grand (his visage gazing at incoming tourists from the hotel’s building wrap). To the south is Criss Angel and “Mindfreak Live!” at Luxor.
“You look at being pinned between two of the biggest magicians in the world, and it’s like an indie film competing with a couple of blockbusters,” Galea says. “We’re going to be on a pretty open stage, not too many theatrics but a great design and great lighting. It’s really just about people trying to make a connection.”
Lacking its most-recognizable cast member in Willman, “Band of Magicians” is counting on a wide appeal among all ages to move tickets in a room where the rock musical “Raiding the Rock Vault” and a show with previous success in Las Vegas (at Mandalay Bay), “Mamma Mia!” have faltered.
“Families do come to Las Vegas and they want entertainment,” Ward says. “When you reach a whole family, yes, it can work, even with all the competition.”
Says Galea: “When we came out in Australia, I was surprised at how many families came out with kids under the age of 5, and they absolutely will come back again. We can appeal to a kid who is 5, or adults who are 35 or 50, who enjoy magic on a different level.”
The goal is to mesh the guys’ well-honed performances with their engaging personalities.
“We hope people can identify with four normal dudes on a stage that are doing things that are remarkable,” Loudermilk says. “You’re watching that happen, while thinking, ‘I want to be friends with those guys.’ “
John Katsilometes’ column runs Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday and Fridays in Neon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter.