Mat Franco's going in for the close-up
It seems like only yesterday that Mat Franco: Magic Reinvented Nightly opened at the The Linq. With a lot of faith and funding invested in him, the seemingly unflappable Franco developed a show that had to live up to the expectations of Las Vegas visitors, viewers who witnessed him win the ninth season of America’s Got Talent, magic fans and his own. A little more than 1,000 shows later, Franco has not only arrived at the summit of Strip entertainment but also demonstrated that he could stay there for years to come.
There’s no time for him to rest on his laurels, though. “While it’s a great milestone and means we’ve had a successful three years, I’m thinking about the next three,” says Franco during a Friday-afternoon phone conversation. The youthful close-up magic specialist from Rhode Island says everything that’s happened to him since he began pursuing a career as an illusionist has exceeded his expectations. “My goals were always more reasonable,” he says. “They were to create magic, share it with people and hopefully have a positive effect on some of those people’s lives.”
Franco says he didn’t guess he would reach millions of people through television and the Internet, but that’s exactly what he’s done. Now he has the daunting task of constantly creating new magic designed to capture audiences’ imaginations, affect them emotionally and enable them to escape reality for an evening. He literally does reinvent magic nightly, currently with a centerpiece trick that yields original results with every performance.
Franco, who was triumphant at AGT’s ninth season finals in September 2014, spent half the next year filming television specials and the other half preparing for Vegas. He found the best lighting and sound designers, assembled a crack stage crew and onstage assistants. “At some point over the course of that year, I came up with the concept of how the show was going to wrap all together, because it is important to me that it isn’t just trick after trick after trick,” he says. “I want it to be fluid. I want there to be a story. I want it to connect from one end to the other, and that concept came to me at some point during that time. Even though when we do fit things in and out, if something doesn’t fit within the concept of that storyline, then it doesn’t go in the show.”
Franco is a master of sleight-of-hand grace and misdirection, and exudes a comfortable confidence to match an ever-present engaging smile. There is a lot of audience participation and plenty of surprises as Franco makes the stresses of the world disappear for 90 minutes and somehow makes each audience member feel as if he’s performing for them personally. He’s having a good time onstage, and the feeling is contagious. “I am genuinely enjoying myself,” says Franco. “In fact, if I’m having a bad day—like we all have occasionally, right—there’s nothing better than to go onstage and let all of our problems go away.”
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