Justin Willman bends minds at the Vilar with a magic show that’s full of laughs
With his hit Netflix series “Magic for Humans,” Justin Willman had mastered the art of turning cynics into believers — or at least getting them to laugh.
Willman will open his two shows Thursday at the Vilar Performing Arts Center by seemingly revealing how he “reads” minds. Upon pulling the exact answer out of a box to a question he asks a random audience member, he will, indeed, reveal that there’s a printer in the box. That’s one way he helps cynics get into the performance: He knows some people are skeptics, so he shows his cards, so to speak, and then invites everyone to just relax and enjoy the show. And, as it turns out, most people do end up leaving scratching their heads about how he pulls off his other “illusions.”
rnrnWhat: Justin Willman — Magic for Humans in PersonrnrnWhen: 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. ThursdayrnrnWhere: Vilar Performing Arts Center at Beaver Creekrnrn rnrnTickets: Start at $45 for adults; $32 for kids 12 and youngerrnrn rnrnMore info: VilarPAC.orgrnrn
“These days, more than ever, we’re so hard to impress as humans,” he said, giving examples of how movies with dragons and whatnot look so incredibly real. “We’ve lost our awe at not knowing.”
But he has a remedy for that: He uses good, old-fashioned magic and a bit of laughter.
“When this old style of entertainment can shift a gear in our heads, we experience that sense of wonder — and we get hit hard,” he said.
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Willman initially fell in love with magic as a 12-year-old. He had broken both arms riding his bike while also wearing Roller Blades (true story). His orthopedic surgeon made an off-hand remark about learning some card tricks while his arms healed, so his parents bought him a magic book and kit, and he’s been hooked ever since.
“It was literally by accident,” he said, adding that magic was his first love, but he was always drawn to magicians who didn’t take the art form that seriously — entertainers like Penn & Teller or Steve Martin.
He equally splits his show between comedy and magic and caters to all ages, from young couples on a date to families and grandparents. In fact, as a new dad of a 4-month-old (as well as a 4-year-old), he welcomes parents to bring kids of any age to his show.
And, for those who saw his magic Dec. 30, 2021, at the Vilar, he encourages them to bring friends, saying it’s just as entertaining to watch the show as it is to watch friends’ expressions when you know what’s coming.
“With overwhelmingly positive response from that performance, we knew we wanted to have Justin back as soon as possible,” said Ruthie Hamrick, director of marketing for the Vilar Performing Arts Center.
Of course, he won’t be recycling an old routine; this year, there are plenty of new components. He has spent the past year working on a new television project, which he’ll not only reveal, but also let audience members be a part of, he said.
“Every show is completely different because of the audience,” he said. “It really is about the people there. I try to avoid doing magic in a vacuum. I like the magic to happen in their heads and hands.”
He adds that, while some audiences come with an inherent, natural nervousness from seeing people embarrassed on stage, he promises: “This is a much more loving, fun, embarrassment-free zone.”
He usually chooses a dozen or so random people, including two whom he’ll make invisible.
“Will I bring them back? We’ll see,” he said, though he did slip out the phrase “temporarily invisible.”
In addition to having memorized all the zip codes in the nation, he ends the show with a number the audience has ultimately generated that becomes an “unexpectedly important number and a fun, mind-blowing moment,” he said, adding: “Magic wants to make you feel like a kid.”
So, no matter what your age, be prepared to giggle and be amazed with a performer who wants to “melt your brain while making you laugh.”