(Fox Theatre, Detroit, MI - March 14th, 2003)
To the pounding bass beat of Steppenwolf’s 1968 classic, ’Magic Carpet Ride,’ suddenly single beams of white light dart all around and a screen drops center stage. ‘Imagine if you could journey to another place and time ….,’ is how the message begins, ending with the thought-provoking question of whether actual ‘time travel’ could be achieved. Copperfield’s own voice-over makes people aware that it was always his dream to attempt ‘time travel’ and that tonight he would finally fulfill his dream. Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to 'David Copperfield's Intimate Evening of Grand Illusion.'
Suddenly, the stage goes dark, the screen lifts, and a large, ‘empty’ fabric box of sorts is brought out, from where no more than twenty seconds later, Copperfield appears … atop a Harley Davidson! Now THAT’s both making an entrance and arriving in style!
Before the audience applause has even died down, a duck (‘Webster’) waddles out on stage for his first appearance of the night. ”Stupid duck,” Copperfield comically mutters under his breath, yet purposely into his microphone. After a couple of quick parlor tricks, and another speech about ‘time travel,’ we’re on to the first real ‘magical act’ of the night.
Large pieces of ‘solid steel’ are tested by two members of the audience with everything from their hands and feet, to vision and a rubber mallet! As the one man repetitiously bangs on one sheet, Copperfield jokes that he himself was now going to hammer out ”… the greatest hits of Snoop Doggy Dogg”! Consequently entombed inside the six metallic walls, a white sheet draped over the entire box, and with video screens ‘seemingly’ covering all the angles for the viewers, Copperfield manages to levitate through the top one and appear above it, safe and sound.
A Frisbee is then sent off into the crowd and a random member of the audience chosen to come forth and draw a picture of herself on a large postcard – which is then ‘watched’ all night by a young boy also handpicked from the audience. Checking in with his cohort on the sunny isle of Cozumel in the Caribbean via a satellite hook-up, Copperfield then himself chooses a ‘random’ female from the audience to aid him in his next act – an act that he claims will result in the chosen one carrying his child! To the drones of both ’She’s Having My Baby’ and Marvin Gaye’s ’Let’s Get It On’ Copperfield proceeds to do an assortment of quick (and silly) maneuvers that simulate him providing her with a baby – including throwing real pickles from a Costco-size glass jar taken from his thin briefcase! Ultra-sounding her, we now see on the big screen an image of a baby in her stomach and it’s holding a card – which is the exact same card that had been chosen not moments prior by another random member of the audience! The fetus is already a frickin’ star!
Another visit from Webster, including the all-too-real vision of him peeing over the front rows, and we’re in Copperfield’s Machine Shop where to the back-drop of the Prodigy tune ’Firestarter,’ he can be found ‘welding’ the last bits of framework together for the forthcoming trick. Once inside this metallic, coffin-sized box, we are then mesmerized by how he can ‘seemingly’ slide his body height from 6 feet tall down to just 3 feet tall – in such a manner that you cringe just thinking about it!
We next get treated to a series of video taped entries from people that wished to be considered to join Copperfield in his life-long dream and ‘time travel’ across the world. Man, are some of these the funniest damn clips EVER shown on any screen, anywhere! To the sounds of Michael Jackson’s ’Smooth Criminal’ (albeit via the vocal chords of the band Alien Ant Farm!), Copperfield chooses two females at random from the audience, puts on some large black, protective gloves, and hands a pack of cards to the one Danish girl. Having chosen her card, Copperfield then has his ‘partner’ – a deadly scorpion - choose that exact same card back out of the heavily reshuffled pack! Of course, the scorpion does his job and no one gets stung!
Video clips of David and his father appear on the screen next, including baby photos of David and the over-bearing knowledge that his father always wanted a green Lincoln Convertible but never got one. What followed though, for me at least, was one of the most mesmerizing acts of ‘magic’ that I have ever born witness to! Having thrown out many Frisbees to garner random audience members, he then lowered a box placed high above the auditorium and had it placed on a podium; just behind him, stage left. Compiling on a large lottery-style banner backdrop both numbers and personal information from four audience members, Copperfield made sure to put these facts and figures down clearly for all to see. Having compiled his final list, he then had some of those chosen audience members come up and help him delve into the box and one-by-one, reveal all the very same numbers and personal bits of information the live audience had just shouted out! More than that, two of his fathers’ old license plates were brought to the fore and the entire list of numbers that had just been revealed were also right there, embedded into the metal plates for all to see! And, if all that weren’t enough, a crash, bang, wallop later and high above the stage, with Copperfield sitting at the wheel, there was his fathers dream car - a gleamingly-pristine green Lincoln Convertible! The whole act had truly been quite amazing from start to finish.
Next, Webster gets to join in the magical fun in a quick and effortless ‘now you see him, no you don’t’ skit (including a so-mo version!), before one last video clip is brought forth. This one depicts how a young man, Rob Stevens had not seen his father (Phillip) for many, many years and that due to one thing or another, had become alienated from him. He wished to ‘time travel’ with Copperfield to the isle of Cozumel in the Caribbean where he might also get to see his father once again! Bringing Rob up on stage, Copperfield introduces Rob to us, picks some more random people, groups them all together with the ‘signed’ postcard from earlier, takes a Polaroid and hands it to Rob to take with him when he ‘time travels.’ Both Rob and Copperfield then step into his ‘Time Machine’ (ie: a mechanical arm that raises out above the first ten rows of the audience). A sheet is placed over them and some flash, bang, wallop later, the sheet is removed, they’re both gone and now the video screen shows that they have ‘time traveled’ and ‘arrived’ in Cozumel! Rob runs into the water, picks up sand, shows us the freshly-taken Polaroid, hugs his father, and then stays there whilst Copperfield ‘magics’ himself back to the auditorium; sand dripping through his fingers as ‘proof’ of his colossal feat!
POSSIBLE SPOILER INFO: Now, I’ve seen David Copperfield perform this very same trick three (3) times now and what gets me is that each and every single time it’s the very same young man chosen, wearing the very same clothing, donning the very same haircut, wanting the very same thing in his on-stage speech (ie: to see his father after ALL these years apart, etc, etc.!) Now, come on, Mr. Copperfield, the people that see your show are made up of a huge amount of ‘return viewers,’ and as much as they love to be mesmerized and confounded, most are not overly dumb! Wouldn’t it be better to change the ‘lucky winner’ each year the show comes back through town, ‘cause if they haven’t cottoned on by now, they soon will once this kid gets to about 40 and the Cozumel ‘video tape,’ I mean "satellite feed" still shows him to be 25 !!!!!
As a finale to the wonderful night, Copperfield ‘bounces’ out twelve huge, silver, light-weight balls for the audience to throw around until the music stops. Then, after all the lucky ball-holding people have all come up on stage, they are seated inside a 12 seater, three tiered stand, given torches and have a sheet placed over them. As they flash their torches around inside as instructed, they are suddenly whisked away at the speed of light only to reappear at the back of the theatre, torches still waving, happy smiling faces aplenty!
And, after a final bout of waving and thanx that’s it for the night and yet another David Copperfield spectacular is done and dusted for the packed-house. As much as Copperfield may still harbor the desire to continue to perform his older tricks for us, his onstage comedic banter, his stealth of hand, and his facial expressions all go to complete a wondrous package of theatrical enjoyment. Whether he can actually ‘time travel’ is up for debate (!), based on the aforementioned mysteriously-evident facts, but that aside, the man is a genius of the performing arts and deservedly receives a standing ovation each and every night. So, for the most part, come to one of his shows and prepare to be mesmerized beyond your wildest dreams!
Reviewed by Russell A. Trunk