Regular readers know about my ongoing feud with a certain crass magician. All bombast with flashing lights, ear-splitting sound, and his own screaming, this ego-fueled fraud does very little that's actually impressive. His latest creation AMYSTIKA literally sprays the audience with pounds of garbage, displaying a symbolic disrespect for the very people who made him rich.
Then there's Michael Carbonaro. Michael has millions of fans thanks to THE CARBONARO EFFECT, a hidden-camera series on truTV and HBO Max. On the show, the jovial young man lures everyday people into mind-boggling pranks that are enhanced by his expert magical skills. No deceitful editing, body doubles, or paid extras pretending to be amazed. It's brilliant, engaging, and hysterical, much like Carbonaro himself.
You might wonder if a smaller-scale television magician could have enough "oomph" to warrant a Vegas stint. After all, Criss Angel hides behind dancers, acrobats, and even his own singing to distract from mediocre stage presence and magic skills. Michael Carbonaro has no such problem. A seasoned live performer, he knows how to grab his audience from the opening seconds.
Entering from the back of the auditorium in everyday clothing, suit on a hanger, Carbonaro steps onto the stage and pops behind a side curtain. One second later, he's fully dressed, albeit wrapped in dry-cleaner cellophane. It's an impressive and light-hearted beginning to a full evening of jokes, audience-participation stunts, and "wow".
It was pleasing to discover that Carbonaro didn't fall into the same trap as Terry Fator and inject unnecessary adult humor into his good-natured antics. His talents and gags are appropriate for all ages, without being dumbed down for family consumption. One quick nod towards his personal life by way of a Chippendales reference is all you'll get. And that's perfectly fine.
CARBONARO: LIES ON STAGE is the official title of the production, which plays through July 10th in the Penn and Teller Theater. Essentially a one-man show, his props include a lawn gnome, a pair of green sheets, and naturally, a deck of cards. The less you know, the better you'll enjoy yourself. But brace for the finale, a beautifully-executed sequence in which a can of Barbasol will transport you to the limits of Michael's imagination. Simple, dazzling, heart-wrenching, and not one bag of trash in sight.
CARBONARO: LIES ON STAGE performs Thursday through Sunday at 8 pm in Rio Las Vegas. Tickets start at $59.99 (plus taxes/fees) and are available HERE. Penn and Teller return July 14th, and discounted tickets are available through Ticket Kite by clicking HERE.