Friday, Jan. 17, 2003 | 9:35 a.m.
What: "Lance Burton: Master Magician."
When: 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Where: The Monte Carlo's Lance Burton Theatre.
Tickets: $54.95, $59.95.
Information: (702) 730-7160.
Rating (out of 5 stars): **** 1/2
More than 1,000 amateur and professional magicians were in town this week to attend the 26th annual World Magic Seminar, founded by Siegfried & Roy.
At least 50 of them were at the Lance Burton performance one night at Monte Carlo.
What they got was two magic shows for the price of one.
One took place onstage, with Burton creating some of the most amazing illusions in the world of magic.
The other took place between the performer and his fans, a connection almost magical in quality.
The soft-spoken native of Louisville, Ky., mesmerizes his fans with his politeness, charm and sincerity, traits that could not be feigned during a Las Vegas career that has included more than 11,000 performances since Burton arrived in 1982.
This month Burton surpassed the 3,000-show mark at the $27-million theater built for him by the Monte Carlo in 1996. The 42-year-old sleight-of-hand master is midway through a 13-year contract that will carry him through 2009.
Within a week after his arrival in L.A., he made his first of 15 appearances on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." Carson began his entertainment career as a magician and always had an affinity for them.
Since then Burton has appeared on many television specials. His next scheduled appearance will be as host of "More Science of Magic" at 10 p.m. on Feb. 13 on Discovery Channel, Cox cable channel 25. Airing this summer on Animal Planet, Cox cable channel 58, will be "Lance Burton's Guerilla Magic: Taking it to the Streets."
Shortly after appearing with Carson, Burton landed a job as a specialty magic act with "Follies Bergere" at the Tropicana. For nine years he performed a 12-minute sleight-of-hand act that featured white doves.
In 1991 Burton -- who always wears a tuxedo with tails onstage -- began a five-year run at the defunct Hacienda, where he headlined a 90-minute magic show until being lured away by the Monte Carlo.
Even after more than 20 years, birds are still a major part of his act -- doves, parakeets, ducks, geese.
His show opens with doves that appear out of nowhere.
"This paid my rent for 20 years," he says in his slow, Southern drawl.
Burton jokes that the white ducks are much harder to train than white tigers.
Then, he picks up an oversized suitcase from the middle of the stage, sets it on a table and opens it, with the back to the audience.
Six sexy showgirls emerge from the suitcase. They must have come from beneath the stage somewhere, but one could go crazy trying figure out how.
At the end of the routine, he places another large suitcase on a table but stands on top of it and, with his back to the audience, spreads the cape he is wearing and each of the six girls disappear. When he turns around six white doves fly over the audience.
Elvis the white parakeet is important to the show, which is popular with kids, judging from the recent performance.
Burton shreds a napkin and when he is finished Elvis appears and is placed in a round wire cage which levitates across the stage before disappearing, leaving behind nothing but feathers.
While he is excellent at sleight of hand, Burton is equally adept with larger illusions -- such as making a Corvette appear and disappear.
It was baffling to watch him trade places with cast members who were wearing masks or hidden beneath blankets. In one illusion he steps into the opening of a teepee, is handed a blanket and makes a person appear behind it, who can't be seen.
The person under the blanket gets down on all fours onstage. This is repeated three times. After the third time, Burton steps out from the blanket.
There is a special segment of Burton's show in which he brings children onstage to help with a bit. Often, children are reluctant to get up in front of an audience. But when Burton asked for four or five young volunteers, 11 rushed forward -- a testament to the bond between him and his fans.
Although there are plenty of humorous moments supplied by Burton, he has had a juggler in his show who has been providing comic relief since the early '90s at the Hacienda.
Michael Goudeau is a riot, starting off by juggling three beanbag chairs and then graduating to knives and then a chain saw, bowling ball and torch.
One of Goudeau's funniest bits is to eat three apples while juggling them, a routine that has seen him consume thousands of apples over the past decade.
When Burton's show was over, and most of the audience had left the room, he came out from behind the curtain to spend some time with the group of aspiring magicians who had come to watch and learn from the world-renowned master.
After talking to them about the profession and answering a few questions, Burton patiently stayed to sign autographs and have his picture taken, even though he was pressed for time.
The magic between him and his fans is not an illusion.