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July 31, 2014

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REVIEW:

David Copperfield: Older, humbler, better

Copperfield, working harder than ever, makes it look easy

David Copperfield

Magician David Copperfield. Launch slideshow »

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IF YOU GO

What: Magician David Copperfield

When: 7:30 and 10 p.m. nightly, Thursday through April 22 (next run begins May 21)

Where: Hollywood Theatre, MGM Grand

Admission: $99.25; 891-7777, www.mgmgrand.com

Running time: About 80 minutes

Audience advisory: Family-friendly, audience participation, unleashed cougars

While a pair of ladies of a certain age are dominating the Colosseum at Caesars, across the street, David Copperfield and Tom Jones are turning the Hollywood Theatre into an arena for middle-aged male performers.

Copperfield’s always amusing and often amazing act is preceded by a clever collage of mentions of the magician in movies, TV shows and cartoons, with secular deities from Ronald Reagan to Oprah and Homer Simpson deploying Copperfield’s name as a punchline.

The video infomercial reminds the audience of his seemingly unshakable place in the pop culture pantheon — and most of all that the name David Copperfield is synonymous with contemporary magic.

A Jersey boy who became an international icon, Copperfield is probably still the world’s foremost living illusionist. Now in his early 50s, with a year of tabloid-type controversy and trial behind him, Copperfield has gracefully backed off from his earlier image of the glossy-maned Lothario of legerdemain. In shedding some of his off-putting arrogance, he has gained an attractive distance and perspective on himself, and his demeanor is now infused with a droll, low-key sense of humor.

But that doesn’t mean he has lost his knack to attract. Saturnine and sly, Copperfield is still catnip for cougars. Try to understand — he’s a magic man.

He’s also the perhaps hardest working entertainer in town — alternating in the 700-seat theater with Jones, Copperfield is performing a series of monthlong stands through the summer, performing twice nightly. Every day.

Dressed in his casual stage uniform of unbuttoned blue shirt over a white T-shirt with black pants, Copperfield maintains a steady stream of jovial, relaxed patter, weaving in personal stories that pay off unexpectedly in later illusions. Aside from some unfortunate canned rock music, there’s very little extraneous froufrou in the show — the focus is kept firmly on the magician and the magic.

But you want to know about the tricks. Without giving up too much, Copperfield:

• Appears to penetrate a solid steel plate.

• Shrinks himself to just a head and feet.

• Pets a deadly black scorpion.

• Chases his white duck, Webster, across the stage.

Between the four or five big-wow stunts, Copperfield works on a smaller scale, popping up in the aisles, encouraging audience members (often comely women) to participate in close-up acts of prestidigitation, which are projected via closed circuit on video screens.

Later in the show we get another video, this time a movie of Copperfield’s greatest escapes and grandest illusions, which have included making the Statue of Liberty disappear, levitating over the Grand Canyon and walking through the Great Wall of China.

There’s nothing as grandiose as these made-for-TV spectacles in the Vegas residency, of course, but the final two stage illusions are inarguably impressive and inexplicable.

On a recent evening, I found myself seated very close to the stage, close enough that I could read the sequence of tricks and patter taped to the stage.

And I was close enough to witness the looks of unfakeable astonishment on the faces of two audience volunteers who discovered a cherry 1948 Lincoln convertible had suddenly, unbeLIEvably materialized right over their heads.

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