Mat Franco discusses his ever-evolving closeup magic show in Las Vegas
Time flies when you’re a Vegas headliner. Magician Mat Franco has already performed more than 1,500 shows at his own theater at The Linq Hotel over the past five years and he kicked off 2020 by signing on for another five. It’s a dream come true for the Rhode Island native and America’s Got Talent champion, but Franco is sticking to the one-step-at-a-time methodology that got him where he wanted to be. “I’m focused on trying to be a little better than I was yesterday, and doing the same the day after that,” he says. “It’s great to look ahead but I don’t know who I’m going to be in five years. It’s amazing to have already done (so many) shows and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings because it’s always about new ideas.”
Magic Reinvented Nightly at The Linq has really become a staple on the Strip. Has your show evolved in ways you didn’t predict?
I don’t make a lot of specific predictions. I kind of let it go where the audience takes me. It’s a show for the audience but it’s a classroom for me. I’m learning every night when I’m out there and now it’s been over 1,500 classes, and I think experience is the best teacher.
The show is definitely packed with audience interaction. How do you plan around that spontaneous action?
That is a crazy thing. You never know what you’re going to get in a Vegas audience. I’ve had people pass out onstage. I’ve had people show up onstage barefoot many times. All kinds of things you can’t predict take place and you have to be able to roll with the punches and that’s part of what keeps it fun for me. Magic doesn’t exist until there’s an audience. I can sit at home or sit in the theater and practice routines, but magic really happens in the minds of the people who are watching. Until I can make that connection and get them to experience it, magic doesn’t exist. But once we get in that theater together, that’s when it happens.
When you are creating something new for the show, how much do you consider stuff like barefoot audience members?
You try to account for everything you can think of that could happen and when you do it the first 100 times you’ll learn a few things you didn’t anticipate, then after 500 you learn a few more, then after 1,000 you’ll learn a few more. It is true that anything that can happen, will happen.
There are so many different magic shows in Vegas these days. Do you think it’s surging right now?
I think people always pictured a certain type of magic in Vegas and when we came in and became the antithesis of that by doing sleight-of-hand magic, close-up magic in a full theater of people, it became something where people were (wondering) how is that going to work, or (thinking) that’s not going to work. And I think we did a little bit of proving that it can. People understanding there are different genres of magic is a really good thing, because that is true, just like music. It’s an interesting art form with a lot of different approaches to it, and in order to succeed you have to have your own unique approach.
As you continue to hone your approach, do you feel you are digging deeper into what you do or branching out and bringing in new things?
I think it’s both, that digging deeper into what you do as an artist involves branching out. I’m obsessed with my craft, I practice all the time and any education always helps. I can sit at home practicing a card trick I’m never going to do onstage because it’s not for that, it’s just for me. But the principles I’m learning while I’m doing that can be applied to what I do onstage. Playing a musical instrument, although it’s not something I’m going to do onstage, can get your mind in the right creative place where it’s actually going to benefit you with what you’re doing onstage. It’s not just about having the right instincts of what to perform and how to perform it, it’s also understanding how to perform it that way.
The Linq Hotel, 7 p.m. Fri.-Tues., additional 9:30 p.m. show Feb. 15-16, starting at $58 plus tax and fee. 702.777.2782