Huzzah for the holidays
For the past several Christmastimes, the evil dragon wizard of Tournament of Kings has devised nefarious plans to disrupt feasting and festivities that would make the Grinch greener with envy. The forces of good prevailed, but Mordred swears he has a different plan during this year's series of special seasonal shows, dubbed Tournament of Kings: 'Twas the Knight. Will he draw on his esoteric knowledge of dark arts and fire to ruin the roast beast? Silence singing? Turn dreams of a white Christmas into nightmares?
Mordred can melt snow with aimed flame, but the actor who plays him doesn't want to give too much of the show away. Antonio Restivo admits it's a fully revised holiday show though, and that citizenry who have dined in the great hall while watching the legend of Prince Christopher's journey toward knighthood unfold as well as patrons of previous 'Twas the Knight shows have something new to see.
Restivo's background in magic enables him to contribute to the creation of magic effects for Mordred's archrival Merlin in 'Twas the Knight, which is one of the reasons he looks forward to the six-week production. "I also love the fact that we start the show a half hour earlier, at 5:30," he says. A second show on select days begins at 8 p.m.
"I'm always excited to do the holiday show," says Restivo. "I've been in it for 15 years, and it's kind of a break from the everyday show that we do, and it's something special. I have to honestly say when Merlin does that big magic trick where he makes the whole arena fill up with snow, people tear up. It's a beautiful scene and it's really special to be a part of."
Merlin has been making it snow every season since 2015 when 'Twas the Knight debuted. This year he has some new tricks up his sleeve, among other revisions to the production. Sparks still fly from clashing swords and knights on horseback charge at full gallop during jousts, but decor reflects the time of year. Revelers holding ribbons dance around a maypole, while a white horse makes merry during a dressage presentation. Guests at the round table burst into seasonal song.
Things are joyous enough to make an evil dragon wizard burn with contempt. Restivo, a recipient of The Merlin Award from the International Magicians Society, says his fascination with pyro prestidigitation started with one match that burned down several acres behind a friend's house. Fortunately for Tournament of Kings, he found positive outlets for playing with fire and blazed a trail that led to performing in Las Vegas.
While Mordred remains malevolent for most of the year, 'Twas the Knight offers him a shot at redemption. "I don't want to give it away, but there's a part of the show where Mordred's 'Bah, humbug,' Christmas Grinch side in him is sort of lifted," says Restivo. Evil dragon wizards have no natural immunity to Christmas spirit.
Excalibur, 5:30 p.m. Mon. & Fri., 5:30 & 8 p.m. Wed.-Thurs. & Sat.-Sun., starting at $75.38 dinner and show. 702.597.7600