Do you believe in magic? An evening of trickery is the perfect pursuit if you plan on visiting Las Vegas for Halloween weekend. In fact, National Magic Week, as proclaimed by the Society of American Magicians, takes place Oct. 25-31. It’s a fitting period because the holiday of haunting is also the deathiversary of the most famous of all conjurers – Harry Houdini.
German magician Jan Rouven, who stars in “Illusions” at the Clarion Hotel & Casino, a property located just steps east of the Strip, is celebrating the occasion with specially priced tickets. Plus, as part of his nerve-racking show, he performs a version of Houdini’s classic Chinese water torture cell escape.
“I’ve been doing it for three years,” says Rouven, who hopes to share his joy of magic along with his admiration for Houdini during National Magic Week. “When people hear ‘underwater tank escape,’ they think of Houdini. He made that one famous, but I have added something to the end – a surprise.”
As a child, Rouven was first bewitched by a magic set his grandmother gave him for Christmas, and ever since he’s been crafting his own illusions. He honed his entertainment skills under the tutelage of the German duo The Magic Orvellis. In 2003, he toured his native land as the opening act for German pop singer Michelle (a.k.a., Tanja Shitawey). Shortly after, Rouven launched a show called “The Man with Nine Lives” at the Royal Palace in Alsace, France. In October 2009 and 2010, he appeared in Las Vegas as one of the featured acts in Fremont Street Experience’s month-long Fright Fest, captivating crowds with his terrifying tricks.
Now, headlining “Illusions,” which opened in July, Rouven continues to impart a buzz of adrenaline, thanks to dangerous stunts and menacing props – like a pair of giant circular saws. His newest illusion, the “Bed of Death,” is perhaps Rouven’s most frightening, as six swords hang perilously above him and a volunteer from the audience has to select the five that won’t pierce his heart.
“There is a movie called ‘Lord of Illusions.’ It’s a horror movie, and this guy was chained down and swords were falling on him, but things went wrong and they hit him, so there’s blood all over,” says Rouven. “When I saw it, I thought this might be something for the show, if I can manage not to end up like him.”
Although he likes to scare people and play with their fears, Rouven is also funny. Along with hip dance numbers choreographed to hits by Katy Perry and Adele, there are plenty of light-hearted, humorous moments onstage as well. Rouven never makes volunteers uncomfortable or places them in any danger. That he saves for himself.
“It’s a physical challenge every night. I have to run. I have to move quickly. I’m chained up on a pole and I switch places within a second. I have quick changes with costumes, and I have to get dry in four minutes – including my hair – after the water escape. So I can’t be lazy,” jokes Rouven. “It’s all very fast and edgy, and this is what people like.”
Las Vegas is home to many other magicians – all of whom offer unique performance styles. In addition to Jan Rouven in “Illusions,” there are two other spooktacular shows just right for celebrating National Magic Week and Halloween.
• The Amazing Jonathan at the Harmon Theater in the Miracle Mile Shops at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino — Steel yourself. This man hasn’t been dubbed the “Madman of Comedy” for nothing. Whether he’s brutalizing his assistant, Psychic Tanya, by stapling things to her head or making something explode, The Amazing Johnathan tends to inspire panic in equal measure as awe. But you are guaranteed to laugh a lot – at least when you’re not being verbally assaulted.
• Criss Angel “Believe” at Luxor — Performing in a gothic-style, Cirque du Soleil-created production, Angel continues to amaze audiences both young and old with the edgy illusions he’s best known for on his A&E series “Mindfreak.” The audience, sorry to say, also plays a critical role – as patrons often join him onstage, only to be cut in half or to disappear at a moment’s notice. No matter what, Angel will make sure you leave the theater mystified.