You have to be one hell of a magician to confound the legendary magic duo of Penn & Teller on their CW network TV show “Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” but Ivan Amodei is one of the few to have accomplished just that. In the past couple of years, he has parlayed that achievement into a fast-rising career that brings him to the stage of the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale on Saturday night.
Titled “Secrets & Illusions,” the show features Amodei leading audiences on an epic journey to discover the secrets of life.
Set on the dark and deserted streets of Paris, audiences will enter the legendary Louvre Museum, where an enchanting musical muse escorts them through galleries, while Ivan uncovers life’s greatest mysteries deep inside the priceless works of art, one dazzling illusion at a time.
The 90-minute spectacular focuses on providing “magic with a message,” and displays Amodei’s signature style of thought-provoking vignettes, audience participation, and storytelling.
“The show isn’t just magic tricks, it actually has parts that address important life things like facing fears, making choices and finding love all in a funny way with illusions that support the message,” says Amodei. “I say ‘we’re gonna face your fear today,’ and a spectator comes on stage and we play Russian Roulette with a 12 inch hunting knife hidden in a paper bag straight up and you have to decide which one to slam your hand into.
“There’ll be a large butcher knife with a 12-inch blade, hidden under a paper bag drilled into a stand so the blade is straight up,” Amodei continues. “I cover the entire stand and knife with a paper bag and put the identical ones that are empty there too, then mix them up on the table so we don’t know which is which. And I tell her the game is slam hand on the bag and then come to which one will have the knife. Most people run out and I have to get a second participant. That just adds to the suspense, and the whole point is to face your fears.”
The 45-year-old Amodei was born in Sicily and moved to the US at the age of two, becoming fascinated by magic when he saw a family friend performing tricks when he was 5. He first started performing small-group magic as a waiter to earn better tips while saving for college, then moved on to parlor-size audiences before going fully professional with large-scale crowds.
Rather than waiting for gigs to come to him or languishing at a day job and performing at parties for side money, Amodei created a full-fledged show after college and took the risk of selling tickets to theaters he rented.
“The show’s illusions are demonstrations of messages in life, not a magic show where I put a girl in a box and saw her in half,” says Amodei. “This is a show about thinking about the messages and facing your fears. The participation allows the show to go in a different direction. It’s a show that actually will help inspire you to move on to the next level of your life.
“A lot of people are stuck and don’t know what they want to do,” he concludes. “This is about how you can achieve more and demonstrate and prove what I’m saying is right. All of the show’s illusions have premises in them, including finding love, purpose in life, why are you on this planet, your destiny. What if you said yes to that job, no to that job, move to this state? Things that actually prove certain things about life. It’s a really different show.”
Ivan Amodei performs “Secrets & Illusions” at 7:30 p.m. Sat. at the Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Tickets are $35 to $85. Call (818) 243-2539 or visit alextheatre.org.