This past Saturday night at Capitol Theatre Salt Lake, audiences were treated to a magical extravaganza with all the flair of a Las Vegas spectacle with Jay Owenhouse’s “Dare to Believe” tour.

Owenhouse is known as “The Authentic Illusionist,” and he lived up to the title as he wowed audiences with a series of mind-bending illusions. Cynicism quickly gave way to amazement as Owenhouse pulled off one magnificent trick after another and left everyone believing in magic at least for one evening.

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While it’s tempting to go to a magic show with the intent of breaking down all of the magician’s tricks, Owenhouse’s stage presence is far from ostentatious. He instead manages to come across as the type of guy with whom you would want to share a drink. As a result, it becomes easy to be lulled into the moment of magic he presents on stage, and the illusions become a pleasure to embrace as reality.

Part of Owenhouse’s charm stems from being a family man who actually has his family working with him on stage and behind the scenes. The involvement of his daughters in the illusions builds suspense. For example, in one of the more complex tricks of the night, Owenhouse had his daughter Juliana climb into an origami box, and with a deft sleight of hand, Owenhouse folded a box large enough to hold a grown woman into a box barely big enough to hold a loaf of bread. He then stabbed three different swords into the box before taking them back out and rebuilding the box to its original size, and his daughter stepped back out onto the stage.

Timing is everything with magic, and Owenhouse’s clock ticks perfectly with his creative illusions. In one illusion he is hustled by a couple of clowns into a glass box covered with a tarp. A third clown appears, and the tarp is removed, revealing a stunning white Bengal tiger. While the audience is still murmuring with excitement, the third clown removes his mask, revealing himself as Owenhouse.

Perhaps his most amazing feat of the night was homage to the great Harry Houdini and his great escapes. Owenhouse was fitted into a full straitjacket and was hung upside down between two 1,200-pound steel jaws held apart by a rope on fire, giving him less than two minutes to escape. As the clock ticked, the audience suspense was off the charts, and he slowly freed himself from his bonds just before the “Jaws of Death” snapped shut.

By the end of the show the audience was mesmerized. Owenhouse ended with dialogue about the magic of seeing snow for the first time, and, to the sounds of a sweeping cinematic score, conjured up a mystifying illusion of being in a snow storm right in the theater. Ironically, it represented more snow than Salt Lake has seen all winter and was a fitting end to an evening of illusions that left the audience believing in the wonder of magic.

a.clark@chronicle.utah.edu
@ChronyArts

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