Interview with Jeremy Allen's Grand Illusions - Jeremy Allen

Magician Jeremy Allen is in his third year of performing an evening of mystifying illusions, adventure and comedy at the Wisconsin Dells Chula Vista Resort. Set in the lush rainforests of a distant land, he sets out to provide his audience with fun, excitement and the discovery of the impossible with his storytelling, humor & awe-inspiring illusions.

Jeremy recently took the time to sit down and tell a little about his life, his thoughts on magic, and what he's looking forward to in the future. 

Let’s start from the beginning, how did you get into magic?

Things started off when I was just eleven years old, when there were a few people telling me that things were “impossible.” As they told me things were impossible, I always would say that nothing was impossible if you put your mind to it – and that belief is what basically started me in magic. I saw another magician perform, and getting to see impossible things turning into reality. So really it was just a sense of amazement, and being fascinated with the impossible. That’s when I began to fall into the love of magic.

What was the first magic trick you learned?

The first trick I ever learned was a rope trick called Professor’s Nightmare (a trick where 3 different sized ropes magically turn into the same size). The first illusion I ever learned was the levitating carpet, and at the kid’s show that I do, I actually get someone out of the audience and perform that very same illusion.

Where are you from, and how did you get into the professional magic business?

I’m from just outside the Wisconsin Dells, and started my career at Riverview Park and Waterworld. I was an onstage lighting technician at fourteen years old, at fifteen I moved to sound tech, and at seventeen I took over the stage – three shows a day, seven days a week. I did that for three consecutive years, and after those three years I put everything away. I started redesigning the show because computers were coming out. People were thinking differently than they do now, thinking futuristic, and we wanted to give people what they wanted. So, I redesigned everything over a period of seven years. I didn’t want to be like any other magicians.

How do you differentiate yourself from the others?

Well, I’m one of only five people in the United States that works with multiple white tigers in a grand illusion show nightly.

I imagine working with Tigers would have to be scary? Have you ever had any scares, like in practice?

Every night is scary! They are still wild animals – there’s no risk for the audience, but there is definitely a risk for me. At one point in the show, I get in a straightjacket, with live video filming me trying to escape in sixty seconds from inside a steel cage. You’ll have to see for yourself exactly what happens, but let’s just say if one of the giant tigers decides to transform quicker than I do…..

Your days of doing grand illusions might be over! Tell me a little more about working with live tigers. How has it evolved?

Well, I started off with one tiger. The first tiger was named Maya (which in Sanskrit 
means "illusion").  That tiger really didn’t enjoy it, so we took that tiger out and got a new one called “Tigger.” Tigger is a great tiger – weights over 350 pounds – and is only a little over a year old. We also have a pair of white ones. Right after the oil spill we named one “BP” because we had to keep cleaning up after him! He’s the male, and weighs almost 500 pounds.

Where do they stay?

There’s a farm right outside Wisconsin Dells. They come here every day for performances. We make it very safe for the audience. We don’t free walk the older ones in the theater (keeping them in cages), but we’ll walk the younger ones up until a year old.

I imagine you do that to keep the audience from getting too scared?

We had a baby tiger – and a baby tiger doesn’t even have teeth. It’s like 2 months old – it drinks from a baby's bottle – but some people still view it as a ferocious tiger! One time it jumped off the table on stage & sat on the floor – and some people thought they were going to get eaten! I’m like, it’s just a baby - it doesn’t even have teeth! We want to take that fear out of them by the end of the show – and just have them filled with love, happiness, and wonder.

Were Siegfried and Roy (a legendary magic duo famous for working with white lions and tigers) a big influence on you?

Siegfried and Roy were my biggest influence, along with David Copperfield. Actually, Siegfried and Roy, since I was 18, have invited me out to their magic get-togethers. It’s a learning experience for the top magicians to go and share ideas.

Speaking of other magicians, I see a lot of billboards around the Wisconsin Dells for magician Rick Wilcox – are you in competition with him?

Were friends, very close friends. I’ve got tigers - he’s got helicopters. My show is nothing like his. People will enjoy both – they’re completely different experiences.

Tell me what people will experience at your show?

This is my third summer at the Chula Vista. When I was designing the show, I came up with things you don’t see anywhere else. I came up with things that are as unique as I can find – everything has a theme – everything has a story to it. Everything has a meaning. I want to touch everyone in the audience – move them – take them to a place they’ve never been before – remind them of childhood memories and childhood dreams.

I don’t do any rope tricks, or card tricks, or rabbits out of hats tricks. Hardly anything you see other magicians do. No ropes, no coins, no cards, nothing that is a “magic trick.” Like I tell an audience – everything I do in the show is just an illusion. I’ll tell them right out – it’s just an illusion – and they’ll still be amazed. Because magic is going in a different direction with the internet – like with Valentino (a magician that went on TV and gave away secrets), I can take an illusion that he just did on TV & has been revealed, and I can put a theme to it, put a story behind it, and even if it was just revealed, the audience will still want to see it - because it tells a story. Moving the audience to another place – taking them on a journey.

What’s your best moment on stage?

I do over 500 shows a year, and the best moment on stage is that you never know who you’re going to get in the audience. You never know what’s going to happen in a live show.

Does anything ever go wrong?

It’s a hi-tech show – it’s designed like Disney World. We have an hour show and when our sound & light guy hits “go” – the lights run through the programming non-stop. It runs from point A to point B – if we have something unexpected happen I’ve got to keep on the clock, because if I say three extra words the lights are going to shut down on me. It’s runs like clockwork, and I never know exactly what’s going to happen on stage.

That must keep you and the crew on its toes.

I have a great lighting director that worked with Phil Collins, and I have a crew that is out of this world. Three female assistants that rotate throughout and I don’t know who is going to be in each illusion each night to keep me fresh. Also, every year I want to do something different. Other illusion shows, they try to make their show different every year, but the audience loves what it sees. I don’t want to take anything away if they come back especially for it. So, I plan to just add three new illusions every year to keep people at the edge of their seats.

What’s your favorite illusion to perform?

The floating table is definitely one of my favorites because I do it surrounded, in the audience – and I float it over people. Also, working with the tigers, as that evolves…

What’s the best part of being a magician?

To be a magician is a dream – it like you’re never going to grow up, you’re always dreaming the impossible, seeing things that are impossible around you every single day. It’s a journey – it’s a blast – nobody can match the experience of being a magician. It doesn’t seem like a job when you love what you’re doing.

Where do you see your show going in the future?

I don’t know where the journey is going to go – it’s just the beginning. I’m just sharpening my knife right now – the tigers are training – most tigers take 5-10 years of training – and I’m only with my 3rd year with these guys. But, the audience is asking for more tigers, so every year we plan to add a tiger trick. Right now we have four tigers, and each is seen once, but we’re ready to add – I’d like to jump from four tigers up to eight.

Any other dreams?

I’d also like to see myself with a giraffe in the show someday – having him appear and then come down right to the front row and eat an ice-cream cone from someone!