Pair incorporate illusions into sci-fi story for ‘Triumph’ at Hilton

There’s something about these guys …

Well, sure. The mere fact they are a magic team, one blond and one brunette, reminds us of a couple of guys who used to work this town. That’s not completely an accident. More on that later.

But Larry Fischer and Rafael Palacios have a way of getting people’s attention. "People want to touch us, that’s all I can tell you," says Fischer, the half of the team who does most of the talking.

Whatever it is, it landed two unknowns on the Strip a new production show called "Triumph," set to open Monday at the Las Vegas Hilton.

The first convert was Bart Torres, on-air voice and entertainment director for the Highway Radio stations based in Barstow, Calif.

Torres took his family on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, where the team of Larry & Rafael, aka LaRaf, performed for 17 years. "I just cannot understand why you’re not in Vegas," he told them.

Torres wasn’t the first person who promised to bring the duo to Vegas. "I’ve heard this story for 25 years, because we’ve been together for 25 years," Fischer says. "(But) he actually was the first one who wasn’t a liar."

Torres shared his excitement with veteran showroom manager and publicist Candi Cazau, who was looking for new pursuits after her downsizing by Boyd Gaming. The two agreed to manage the magicians through their BCM Entertainment partnership. (The show itself is financed through the magicians’ own company, helmed by Florida-based producer Bill Gibson.)

Torres and Cazau relied on their good reputations, setting up 13 blind showcases for casino executives in a local production studio. Only one asked for a limo. And none, Cazau says, were told what they would be seeing.

The minishow included Fischer and Palacios’ version of the classic "metamorphosis," instantly changing places after one is locked in a trunk. They did it as it will be seen in "Triumph": in the audience, with 360-degree sight lines.

Las Vegas Hilton entertainment executive Rick White says it wasn’t just the magic, but the storyboards and storyline. "Something completely different from the other magic and illusion shows."

The subtitle, "It Runs on Steam," signals a time travel narrative and "steam punk" visual design, based on a current trend re-exploring the Victorian sci-fi of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.

"A lot of us are fantasy and sci-fi buffs," White says. "Without even knowing what the Victorian era was as a kid, I remember loving that visionary stuff."

The illusions are incorporated into the story as Fischer and Palacios embark on a mission to repair a rip in the time continuum. There’s no dialogue, but the audience is guided along through narration (the sonorous voice of Duke Morgan, KJUL-FM personality and Cazau’s husband).

"You don’t need to be on French-Canadian drugs to understand the story," Fischer assures.

"You’re here to see us," he adds, as he gestures to all the contraptions surrounding him on the Hilton’s massive stage. "Believe me, all this is secondary."

Cazau says there’s "a rapport between Raphael and Larry that you never see onstage anymore. They weren’t just going through the mechanics, the motions. They were actually living each scene."

"After 25 years, we really don’t have to speak to each other onstage. We know what each other is thinking," Fischer says.

And that reminds us of … OK. Enough beating around the bush. So what will Siegfried & Roy think of all this?

Fischer and Palacios say they likely will be proud. After all, the Las Vegas legends started the two down their path.

Palacios grew up as a member of The Flying Palacios, the first trapeze act at Circus Circus. Fischer was a Beverly Hills child who never cared about magic, but was on the brink of early retirement funded by ownership of six automobile dealerships.

Palacios took Fischer to see Siegfried & Roy at the New Frontier. They went backstage for cocktails that lasted until the wee hours.

At one point, Siegfried Fischbacher turned to Palacios and told him he was getting too old to be an acrobat. "What are you going to do? Your shoulder’s starting to go."

Then he turned to Fischer and said in his thick German accent: "And you — you too young to retire. You’re going to do magic together, both of you."

The two went outside to talk it over. Palacios said, "I’d like to see my name on that marquee. What do you think?" Fischer answered, "I’d like to see the Brinks truck pull up in front."

At least the marquee has come true at the Hilton. Audiences will decide the Brinks truck part. If "Triumph" doesn’t fly, it won’t be for lack of effort.

"People want to see the magician sweat," Fischer says. "Nobody sweats anymore. We will."

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ or 702-383-0288.

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