World renowned magician delights audience in Gateway

See why magician Jeff McBride played to a standing-room-only crowd in Mall 205 recently. Even more magic fun is coming there on June 15

Greeting the audience members – arriving from all over the Pacific Northwest into the Hazelwood neighborhood, to see his show at the All American Magic Theater in outer East Portland – is master magician and teacher Jeff McBride.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Many show business performers are adept entertainers; others in the business are skillful teachers.

But, on the weekend of May 4, Las-Vegas-based master magician and illusionist Jeff McBride came to Portland and thrilled a packed theater with his performance; and then he went on to teach both a beginning and master class in the art of magic.

Backstage in his Portland dressing room, illusionist Jeff McBride prepares for his show – which will be just as he presents it in his own theater in Las Vegas.

Before his show, McBride spoke with East Portland News about his career – starting off telling why he came to Portland for the weekend.

“I came to perform, and then teach, here at the All American Magic Theater, because I’ve known its owner, master magician Mark Benthimer, for 25 years at least,” McBride explained. “The theater, and Mark’s commitment to bringing quality magic to Portland from around the world, enticed me to come here with my show.

A crowd gathers outside the All American Magic Theater inside Mall 205 before the visiting wizard presents his performance.

“Mark is very passionate about the art of magic, having opened several magic shops and theaters, and performed at magic convention; so, I came to support him and his magic theater, which is the ‘next level’ of his creativity.”

Clearly there is an interest in magic in Portland, McBride remarked, observing that the show had already sold out. “And, it’s wonderful that Mark’s theater makes live magic performances so accessible to families. Few cities host regular live magic shows; and his theater gives families polished performances – like something you’d see in Las Vegas – but is family friendly.”

Magician McBride opens his show with his famous kabuki theater mask presentation.

From magic books to world tours
Like many youths, McBride said his love of magic started by discovering a book in the library when he was seven years old – and it changed his life.

During high school, he worked in carnivals to learn more about traveling shows, while working on his act. “When I was 16 years old, I got my first big gig to go to Japan, to be an opening act. After I graduated from high school, I moved to New York City to work in the famous Flosso’s Magic Shop, where I met many magicians, some of whom helped me get booked in nightclubs.”

Seemingly out of nothing, colorful streamers appear at the hands of Jeff McBride during his show.

A friend of Broadway director Tommy Tune helped him become the opening act for Diana Ross for four years, taking him eventually to performances with her in Radio City Music Hall.

“Steve Wynn brought me out to Las Vegas, to the Golden Nugget Casino, where I became ‘everyone’s opening act’ – including Frank Sinatra, on a New Year’s Eve,” recalled McBride.

He has performed at other major casinos, including Caesar’s Palace, and then opened McBride’s Wonderground. “That’s kind of like ‘Hollywood’s Magic Castle meets Burning Man’,” he said.

Walking into the audience, Jeff McBride catches oodles of coins that appear out in the air, and dumps them in his bucket.

During his show, McBride wowed the audience, demonstrating why – in the field of magic entertainment – he’s called a skill artist” – someone who creates illusions of the impossible by using slight-of-hand in hand manipulation, instead of glittery boxes and mechanical gimmicks.

“I combine this with pantomime, martial arts, kabuki theater, and different movement disciplines … mask work, quick-change, commedia dell’arte, driven by music instead of talk, so I can play anywhere in the world, breaking down language or cultural barriers,” he commented.

Offers beginner and master classes
Another facet of McBride’s endeavors is the “Magic & Mystery School” that he opened three decades ago – a retreat that brings in many of the world’s top magicians and philosophers.

After the East Portland Saturday afternoon show, dozens of families stayed on for a beginner’s class in magic. And, Sunday afternoon, twenty local semi-professional magicians and serious amateurs attended his nearly four-hour “Master Class”, in which McBride generously and freely shared secrets of his act, discipline, and knowledge.

After shredding tissue paper, magician Jeff McBride clearly delights Ashley – his volunteer from the audience – with this string of paper hearts.

“At our school in Las Vegas, we offer six to eight in-depth classes a year; a few students of mine have gone on to success, including Matt Franco, who won Season 9 of America’s Got Talent,” McBride said with pride.

From the beginning amateur who wants to amaze friends at parties, to professional performers; as well as collectors, writers, and enthusiasts – all come from around the world to attend his school.

To learn more “Magic & Mystery School” programs – where online learning courses are available – see the official website: CLICK HERE. Or, to see his Magical World of Jeff McBride website: CLICK HERE.

At intermission, families enjoy a snack while they ponder the mysteries they saw during the first half of “All American Magic & Comedy Show”.

Live magic shows in June 15 & 29
The “All American Magic & Comedy Show” presents 2:00 p.m. afternoon matinee shows in June, featuring master illusionist Mark Benthimer and the hilarious hi-jinks of ventriloquist Scott Davis. Continuing its six-year run of sold-out shows, Portland’s only magic theater presents a two-hour family show, at family-friendly prices.

Get tickets online (they sell out ’most every show) and see their special family pack deals at their website: CLICK HERE. Or, call 503-995-7379 for more information.

The All American Magic Theater, complete with an extensive snack bar and an on-site magic shop – and plenty of free parking – is located inside Mall 205, at 10100 SE Washington Street, 97216.

© 2019 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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