ADRIAN — In this day and age when everything from work meetings to birthday parties has moved online, Adrian magician Stuart MacDonald is doing the same with a set of performances presented by the Croswell Opera House, live-streamed via Zoom.
And the online audience will get to try their hand at a trick or two too, if they wish, during “Richard Preston’s Cocktail Capers.”
Preview performances take place at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, July 23; Friday, July 24; and Saturday, July 25.
After that, performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 30, Friday, July 31, and Saturday, Aug. 1; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6, Friday, Aug. 7, and Saturday, Aug. 8; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, Friday, Aug. 14, and Saturday, Aug. 15; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16.
Tickets to the preview shows are $40 per household, meaning per screen on which the event is being viewed. Tickets to the subsequent performances are $50 per household.
Orders can be placed online at croswell.org and an email with the link and further instructions will be sent prior to the event. Tickets are highly limited due to the interactive nature of the show. Audience members must have a computer or tablet with a Webcam and Zoom capability, which can be downloaded for free at zoom.us. Cellphone screens are not large enough for the experience.
Participants are encouraged to have a deck of cards and a glass of water handy so they can join in with some of MacDonald’s tricks.
For his show, MacDonald plays “entertainer extraordinaire” Richard Preston, a character whom the magician describes as “what would happen if Forrest Gump and Austin Powers had a baby.”
“Richard is the greatest entertainer who ever lived, who just happened to be a magician,” MacDonald said.
As the story goes, Preston was a World War II hero, an entertainer who bumped Elvis Presley off of the “Ed Sullivan Show” because his act was better, and who counted among his honors being immortalized in cement at the legendary Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
Then, in 1962, with the Cold War raging and the space race heating up, Preston agreed to be cryogenically frozen — that’s the “Austin Powers” connection — so that he could be thawed out in 2050 to entertain the first human colony on Mars.
“They froze Richard at a time when there were two ways the world could go,” MacDonald said. “Either into nuclear war, and nothing would matter anyway, or into the excitement of going to the moon and then to Mars.”
But, the story continues, with everything that’s going on now in 2020, the world’s governments collectively voted to thaw Preston out so he can use his extraordinary talents as an entertainer to help people get through this fraught time.
MacDonald said when the Croswell approached him about doing an online act, the plan was to videotape it and show it that way. But “that doesn’t harness the power of Zoom” and similar platforms, and so he knew he wanted to perform live.
The idea itself isn’t unique — for example, a Los Angeles magician is doing an online show “and it’s selling out,” — but all MacDonald’s research led him to figure out not only what he did want to do, but what he didn’t.
The result is a family-friendly performance that MacDonald says is geared toward adults but with plenty to entertain children as well.
The conceit of the show is that Richard, because he’s just been thawed out, is quarantined in his home — which is actually MacDonald’s home, with its appropriately mid-century décor — and entertaining guests in a cocktail-party setting.
Of course, since Richard has missed the last more than 50 years of American life, 2020 is a real culture shock. “He’s fascinated by the new technology,” MacDonald said, laughing.
Richard regales his guests with stories of his amazing life, giving them a mini-history lesson in the process, and, of course, does magic along the way. Three cameras will allow the audience to see everything MacDonald’s doing, “including one that’s six inches away from the trick,” he said.
While people can just sit back and watch the show if they wish, they’re encouraged to have that aforementioned deck of cards and glass of water at hand so they can participate. And MacDonald hopes they will, because “if the magic happens in your hands and you don’t have a clue how, it’s amazing,” he said. “We will have so much fun.”
With his war-hero status and amazing life story, Richard Preston is “a fictional character who is the best of us,” MacDonald said. And with the current state of the world, he hopes his show allows people “to suspend their disbelief and walk away happier. There’s still wonder in the world, and reasons to get together and reasons to hope.”