We’ve all seen magicians pulling fluffy rabbits out of their hats, but the four world-renowned performers coming to Millennium Place Friday (Dec. 28) prefer a much larger, thoroughly Canadian critter for their chapeau.
Moose in a Top Hat is a diverse show that blends magic, mystery and comedy into two separate performances; a matinée for the whole family at 3 p.m. and one geared for guests aged 14 and up at 8 p.m.
More than your average backyard magic show, Moose in a Top Hat brings together four unique entertainers with years of experience wowing crowds across the globe, including funny man Matthew Johnson, who should be familiar to Whistlerites from his balloon-making demonstrations at this summer’s Children’s Art Festival.
“I’m a magician, juggler, comedian, the boy next door on medication,” he joked, saying his set is chock-full of “high-energy and crazy antics that people are going to get dragged up into.”
Johnson has been a entertainer for his entire adult life, performing magic on cruise ships and then in a Japanese hotel until he came to B.C. 15 years ago to follow his Canadian girlfriend. He got rid of most of his expensive props and costumes before the trip, which he said forced him to rethink about what he wanted to do.
“I came here with nothing really, so I kind of looked at what I was doing and turned myself into a comedy-magician, which means I get to make more or less the same money and entertain 600 people with a case of stuff I bought at Wal-Mart,” he said.
Now, Johnson has carved out a style that is uniquely his own, combining magic effects with juggling and his zany physical comedy that will delight children and adults alike. He’s toured the world lecturing at magic conventions and seminars, including the world championships of magic last year, with his longtime friend and fellow Moose in a Hat performer, mentalist Christopher Taylor.
A Renaissance man in his own right (he is a children’s author, professional photographer, accomplished martial artist, former school teacher and prison guard), Taylor is one of the world’s most highly-regarded mentalists, and has been commissioned to work with some of the biggest names in the biz, including David Copperfield, Criss Angel and David Blaine.
“(Taylor) has taken everything he knows and mixed it with body language and secret techniques that give the illusion he’s reading your mind. It’s pretty freaky stuff actually,” said Johnson.
One of Taylor’s signature tricks is a rousing game of what’s called “psychic hide-and-seek” that is sure to give audience members the goose bumps.
“(Taylor) will do an effect where he will get a father and a daughter, usually, and he will get them to play hide-and-seek in their mind,” said Johnson. “She’ll choose somewhere in her mind that she’s going to hide, and without saying a word, her dad will find her in that imagined place. It’ll make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.”
Rounding out the show is husband and wife entertainers, Trevor and Lorena Watters, who will perform their light-hearted, award-wining take on a traditional magic show.
“They’re like The Carol Burnett Show with magic. They’re amazing, they’re fun, they’re fresh, they’re unique, they’re energetic and have great choreography to music,” said Johnson.
The Watters’ joined Johnson and Taylor earlier this year after an MC dropped out of one of their shows. Trevor took over, and the seeds of The Moose in a Top Hat were sown.
Johnson said the pair add a theatrical element to the show, but still have the chops to pull off some of the most amazing magic effects you will ever see — evidenced by their 2010 Golden Lion’s Head Award, given to them by master illusionists Siegfried and Roy. They are only the third Canadians ever to receive one of the highest honours in magic.
Johnson is no stranger to Whistler, having performed in several local events over the years. He and the rest of the Moose in a Top Hat crew are currently talking with the Whistler Arts Council to make their innovative show a staple of the town’s nightlife.
“What I would love to see is not only a show in Whistler, but a resident show in Whistler, a show that’s there every week, or three or four days a week in the busy season,” said Johnson. “I believe that because of the tourist industry, this will be a great thing for Whistler. When people finish on the mountain skiing or biking, there is really nothing for people to do other than watch a movie, go to Starbucks or go eat. It’s what Whistler needs.”
Johnson and friends can test the Whistler waters with four more shows at Millennium Place in February and March.
Visit www.artswhistler.com to purchase tickets. The Moose in a Top Hat family show is $12 for children under the age of 12, and $15 for adults. The evening show, for a more mature audience, are $25.
Go to www.mooseinatophat.com for more information.