A bigger stage means bigger dangers in Jan Rouven’s revamped ‘Illusions’
New and classic acts come to life at Tropicana
It’s seven days before the opening of The New Illusions starring Jan Rouven, and the mood is light as Rouven and his cast and crew rehearse “The Jaws of Death” onstage at the revamped, predominantly red Tropicana Theater. Rouven dangles from a chain rather than the burning rope used in performance, racing the clock to remove a straitjacket as dancers and manager Frank Alfter look on from the audience seats. It’s only been two months since Tropicana Las Vegas President Alex Yemenidjian and chief marketing officer Fred Harmon bought tickets to see Rouven’s show at the Riviera, subsequently making the German magician an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“Jaws” was one illusion in Rouven’s repertoire that he couldn’t perform in the Riviera’s intimate Starlite Theatre. The Tropicana’s stage held the casts of Mamma Mia! and showgirl extravaganza Folies Bergere, and can handle larger props like the industrial drill that seemed to impale Rouven during his European engagements. “It’s one of the largest stages on the whole Strip,” says Rouven as the crew prepares the next illusion. “In Europe I always did big huge shows on big stages and then, when we moved to Vegas, I had to downsize for the Riviera.”
Rouven performed professionally before he made his first trip to Las Vegas at age 16, when he first saw his heroes Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn at The Mirage. There was no question about his career direction, although he says he didn’t foresee having a permanent home in a venue like the Tropicana Theater. Alfter, an illusionist himself, saw Rouven’s potential when the aspiring magician visited the seasoned veteran’s show. Alfter mentored Rouven and got him booked at a theme park, where he learned to perform in front of large audiences.
Rouven toured Europe, and the audiences grew. His affable persona and easygoing charm went over well during German television appearances, too, but there was only one place in the world for Rouven to take his next logical career steps. A little more than three years ago, he headed to Las Vegas to perform on Fremont Street, then received his first Vegas showroom engagement at the Clarion before relocating to the Riviera in 2011. The move to the Tropicana makes him a top Strip headliner and an A-lister in the ultra-competitive world of illusionists.
He’s been too busy to let his rapid rise make him apprehensive. Rouven was filmed for German and American television productions before the Tropicana offer arose. He’s reintegrated a double levitation illusion into his show, created a “daredevil section,” plans to make a motorcycle materialize and added a new introduction called “Elysium” that involves appearing on a swinging carousel.
A few tricks from his previous show have been dropped, and Rouven is evolving his stage persona so the personable charisma he’s become known for isn’t diminished on the larger stage. “I call it a ‘Las Vegas extravaganza,’” says Rouven. “It’s a bigger theater, and I don’t talk as much, so it’s better for an international audience. I still talk, but it’s more visual.”
Tropicana, 7 p.m. Sat.-Thurs., $59-$99 plus tax and fee, children 5 and under free with adult ticket purchase (one child per adult). 702.739.2411