Getting stared down by two white tigers from just a few feet away is not something I recommend for the faint-hearted, but after spending a recent evening backstage going behind-the-scenes of Jeremy Allen’s Grand Illusions show, the sensation that I could become tiger dinner is something I won’t ever forget.
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 and awe-inspiring illusions.

Arriving for my latest Bucket List adventure, I found Jeremy and his crew getting the intimate theater setting ready for the evening’s performance. He explained to me that he puts on a very hi-tech show that needs to run like clockwork, as there are sound, lighting and fog effects that are programmed to run non-stop. “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!”

While nothing of the sort happened during the entertaining performance I saw, being one of my hobbies as a child was magic, I immediately recognized illusions from some of magic’s biggest names. Jeremy mentioned that David Copperfield played a big influence on him growing up, as well as the legendary duo Siegfried and Roy who had white tigers in their act – just like those I encountered when I went backstage. Thankfully, the two potentially ferocious cats were safely behind glass cages, and while I was told that they are actually quite tame, having two sets of tiger eyes watching my every move definitely made me a little uneasy.

Being that Jeremy states he is one of only five people in the United States that works with multiple white tigers in a grand illusion show nightly, I had to ask him if he ever had any scares working with the exotic white cats: “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 then I do…”

Jeremy potentially risks his limbs working with tigers, but I also came a little too close for comfort due to my own foolishness. While I didn’t dare go near the cages of the two big cats that were staring me down, I did muster up some courage when seeing the adorable golden tiger named “Tigger” that is a little over twelve months old. Although Tigger weighs over 350 pounds, its cage didn’t have glass covering the iron bars like ones holding the larger white tigers. Having two cats of my own - albeit way much smaller in size - I thought I’d see if my nurturing ways would allow me to pet the docile looking animal. Turns out this wasn’t the brightest idea. Let’s just say if you ever come across a tiger, attempting to let him smell the back of your hand like you would a dog might not go over too well!

Lucky to have my fingers intact from my thoughtless attempt at touching a tiger, Jeremy quickly decided that it would be best if we moved me away to something a little safer – like birds. He has a total of fifteen of them, and while I don’t want to ruin the surprise, the startling appearance of some during the show is pretty eye-opening at such close quarters – even after seeing Jeremy do the set-up for their emergence beforehand.

While the fast-paced hour performance consists of many mind-blowing illusions, there are also many moments of comic relief mixed in as well. One of these instances was when Jeremy graciously invited my niece Tessa  (who I brought along with my nephew Anthony to get a kids point of view) up from the audience to help out. While she was on stage apparently seeing an amazing feat of disappearing marshmallows, the audience was seeing how it was accomplished in a comedic way by use of a hidden assistant and fishing net.

That secret is most likely the only one the audience will walk away with after watching the Las Vegas caliber show Jeremy Allen and his three assistants perform. While my backstage access enlightened me to a few others, he doesn’t have to worry about me divulging any of them, as I still hold dear a rule I learned growing up with the hobby of magic - never reveal the secrets.

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