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A few minutes with Lance Burton

On retirement, magic and the Vegas audience

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After more than a decade on the Strip, Lance Burton is perhaps the one show from family-friendly Vegas that remains. And while his magic show draws a large number of children, he equally hopes to amaze adults. From Penn & Teller at the Rio to Criss Angel Believe at Luxor, a lot has changed about the magic shows in Vegas since Burton arrived on the scene. After months of speculation that he would retire following the expiration of his contract, and an ankle injury that kept him offstage for months, Burton recently announced a multiyear extension of his contract at the Monte Carlo.

Did you seriously consider retirement?

Sure. I considered everything. I have been a professional magician for 30 years. I have been in Las Vegas for 27 years, and I have been at the Monte Carlo for 13 years. But I felt I had a few more shows in me. When I started in Las Vegas in 1982, it was two shows a day, seven days a week, and I worked two years straight without a day off. That was fine then, because I was 22. Now, it would be harder to do the second show. It is just mother nature catching up with you.

How about the content of the show? Does that change regularly?

Oh yeah. More than people realize. It changes every night. No two audiences are exactly alike. Over the past several years, I have developed this system of signaling with my cast and crew so that I can do the show that I think is best for that particular audience. I don’t do the same show Wednesday that I did Tuesday. Also, a different time of the year means different audiences. So right how now is summertime, and so we have a lot of families in Las Vegas. The energy of the audience is different every night. Some nights the audience will react to the magic more than the comedy and some nights it is vice versa.

Do you consider that you are part of a more traditional presentation of magic than someone like Criss Angel?

You can call me whatever you want; you won’t offend me. You aren’t the first to put that label on me. I see the show as a magic show. And that is the only label I put on it. Where I am coming from is that Criss Angel and I may have different tailors, but we are both doing magic.

Have audience expectations for magic shows changed since you started working Vegas?

I don’t think so. For me a great magic trick begins with a narrative. It tells a story. That has always been true. I think the audience is just looking to be entertained and engaged. I don’t think the core things in magic or theater have changed. You go see a magic show and people want to be amazed. That is what they are expecting.

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