Rick Thomas grew up in a ballroom dancing family and won the Junior U.S. Ballroom Championships with his sister. But his true love was magic.
Thomas began practicing magic at age 7, and by 17, he was the youngest performer at Disneyland Hotel.
He grew up right next to Disneyland and was always fascinated by how things like the rides worked, so magic seemed like a natural fit.
Yet, he couldn’t quite shake his ballroom dance training. It ran in the family; his parents were instructors and judges.
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“Magic has been my passion, but I couldn’t stop my feet from moving around,” Thomas said about his illusion acts on stage. “At first, I tried to keep dance separate from magic, but then I realized they are both tremendous forms of art.”
So he incorporated more dance, as well as comedy, into his magic shows. Now, two ballroom couples and two males, along with Thomas’ assistant Tara — a dancer from Zimbabwe who studied ballet in the United Kingdom — join him on stage.
At every show, he performs as if it’s his first.
“It will be that breathtaking and as fresh as you could ever imagine,” Thomas said. “My grandma taught me well. In ballroom, there are eight to 10 judges surrounding the floor, walking around, watching you. No matter where you turn, you have to look and smile. My grandma told me: ‘You are always, always, always to be on.’ When I hit that stage, I’m on.”
As a result, Thomas guarantees adults, who may think they’re there for their kids, will be blown away with “great charm and joy; everyone once again becomes a child.”
Thomas has toured more than 50 countries, heading the Sydney Opera House in Australia, performing on Broadway and earning the Key to the City of Las Vegas for performing 600 shows a year for 15 years and being named “the most successful show for families” in Las Vegas history. His honors include Magician of the Year by the Academy of Magical Arts, as well as magic’s highest recognition: Illusionist of the World, by the World Magic Awards. He’s appeared on numerous national television specials, including his own show on ABC.
One thing that stands out about Thomas is his showmanship, which stems from the fact that he believes in magic.
“I really believe it’s real,” he said. “I am as amazed when I am performing as the audience is. If I don’t believe, you won’t believe. I see what the audience sees, and I agree with it — it’s amazing. I’ve always believed in magic. Though I may know how it’s done, I still believe in the art form. I believe it is one of the greatest art forms in the world.”
He calls himself “extremely emotional,” and he’s deeply moved by the entire entertainment industry.
“A show doesn’t even have to start and I get a tear in my eye or a swelling heart,” he said. “I’m lucky to tell myself, ‘I’m part of this’ and to present what I’ve mastered my entire life.”
His life work has been to break down walls between the audience and the stage.
“I truly care,” he said. “The show goes way beyond art and personality and magic. (I want) the audience to feel extremely comfortable, as though they’re part of the family — one big family reunion.”
As a result, he vows:
“We will touch your life with this show. You will laugh, you will cry — anything you can imagine. I promise to take you on a great journey.”
If you go …
What: Illusionist Rick Thomas
When: Friday, March 13, 7 p.m.
Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center
Cost: $48 adults, $29 kids, $150 family pack
More information: Visit http://www.vilarpac.org.