The following review is based on Xavier Mortimer’s September 12th performance at 8 pm inside the Magic Castle’s “Palace of Mystery.”
Even after all these years, well-performed magic by its devoted practitioners still receives ahhs, oos, and gasps from an audience whose eyes are fixed on a trick being performed. Of course, as with any other form of entertainment, more than half the battle is won by being an appealing artist who is so convincing that the receiver has no choice but to believe in what is being communicated.
The competition to earn one’s attention is fierce, and in a world where there are many TV shows and platforms underscoring the finest magicians, only the best of the best stand out. Undeniably, one of these individuals is the charismatic Frenchman Xavier Mortimer. The artist is more than just an established veteran of the magic trade; he is a well-rounded performer in the art of showmanship and is the first-ever Cirque performer (he starred in “Michael Jackson ONE”) to headline his own show in Las Vegas. In fact, he is currently a resident performer in the enthusiastically reviewed “Magical Dream” at the Windows Showroom in Bally’s.
Mortimer, who has also added to his fame by being on “Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” “The Next Great Magician,” “France’s Got Talent,” and even “America’s Got Talent,” is a true international artist with a resume that spans 30 countries. The entertainer is also proficient in music, juggling, acrobatics, miming, dance, and vaudevillian comedy, all of which have been on full display at the renowned Magic Castle in Hollywood since September 9th (through the 15th), where he has been a guest performer at the landmark mansion’s biggest space: “The Palace of Mystery.” During this week, at three scheduled times each evening (8, 10, and 11:30 pm), capacity audiences have laughed, clapped, and become awestruck while watching the mastery of Mortimer unfold inside the Academy of Magical Arts’ prestigious clubhouse.
Dressed in a black dress shirt, burgundy jeans, and a navy-blue sport coat, Mortimer navigates the stage with an infectious energy, as he comically comes to grips with his own idiosyncrasies, insofar that he interacts with his own shadows (projected onto a white canvas shielding the stage), and even has an existential tussle with his own dual (evil) self whose reflection is seen in a mirror. Of course, no story would be quite complete without some romance, and Mortimer shares blissful moments with “Belle” (played by Allie Sparks), his lovely ballerina assistant with a flair for contortion and excellently timed satire.
The biggest takeaway in experiencing Mortimer live during his incredibly paced 45-minute set is how resourceful and versatile he is in ways he manages to regale his audience. For instance, his passion for music manifests with his playing of the clarinet and ukulele, or by even strumming the bristles of a broom that suddenly becomes detached from its stick, yielding an otherworldly dance with the latter (and now levitating) object.
A similar sensation of awe comes over the crowd when they witness Mortimer clang two cymbals together, beckoning previously unseen objects in an applause-worthy role play, and when he seemingly captures the sounds of the violin during his “symphony of magic” juggling diabolo act (using an axle with adjoining hourglass-shaped cups that is balanced and spins on a string held on both ends), which appears effortless as the award-winning magician lounges while doing it.
Mortimer’s all-encompassing approach to magic entails that he is ostensibly everywhere at one time, in the flesh or present via his shadow(s), where he impresses with a flurry of movement and jaw-dropping athleticism, such as when he does a spontaneous mid-air leg split, or abruptly tilts 360 degrees in the air, defying the restraints of gravity. Better yet, the tireless physicality of Mortimer’s show also highlights a mirthful physical comedy with spot-on facial and bodily expressions that denote much of his set’s hilarious absurdity, one example being his squeaky balloon and voice act. It’s an uproarious and wondrous take on perhaps a would-be jester who has a little too much fun fashioning balloon animals.
The French export’s love of the surreal is also conveyed in his hysterical interaction with the audience. While pretending to be mute, cue cards written in a “French accent” prompt the attendees to heed the directions as well as answer queries into a microphone. Although this bit begins as a farce, it takes a turn for the uncanny, shocking onlookers, who, having been resigned to just playing along with Mortimer’s goofiness, swiftly find themselves wondering how he was able to read their minds the entire time.
The dreamscape nature of Mortimer’s show, though, culminates with an iron and ironing board, in what is an astonishing artifice that involves Mortimer being inadvertently knocked out by Belle’s iron, causing him to pass out, repose on the board. What follows is so mind-boggling that Houdini himself might very well be compelled to reappear just so he can give Mortimer and his assistant a standing ovation.
Overall, for the French phenom, who as a kid was “fascinated by dreams,” performing inside the hallowed halls of the Magic Castle isn’t just an honor and privilege for him (by his own admission), but for the audience too, which is treated to a bonanza of Mortimer’s talents compromising a theatrical narrative that feels as timeless as a beautiful dream.
Please note that for Xavier Mortimer’s show at the Magic Castle, and for all other events at “The Palace of Mystery,” priority seating goes to dinner guests with a reservation.
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