Master of Illusion

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First Posted: 8/12/2014

Any sane person approaching a seven foot tall, four foot wide, one-inch thick plate of steel would simply walk around the thing – but not Michael Grandinetti.

The 36-year-old West Mifflin native had a better idea: He wanted to go right through it. He, in fact, did and has on several occasions. It’s just a perk of being a magician.

Grandinetti is one of several featured illusionists on the CW network’s “Masters of Illusion,” which airs every Friday at 8 p.m.

The Walking Through Steel trick merely scrapes the surface of what Grandinetti is capable of, a man whose passion for what he does is evident through even the phone as he chats two hours prior to the “Masters of Magic” show at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada.

“This is my favorite part of the day,” he said. “I’m so excited, I can’t wait before I step on stage. I love the audience, and I appreciate them being there. There are a million and one things people can do and the fact that they’ve decided to spend the time with us…I love it. I don’t take that lightly.”

Grandinetti, whose career history boasts NFL halftime show performances and levitating a girl on a float during the National Independence Day Parade in Washington, DC, is a self-proclaimed perfectionist. It’s not so much about a need for him to get it right for his own sake, but for that of the audience and the sense of amazement he’d like to bestow upon them.

“I don’t get the chance to be amazed too much because I’ve been doing magic so long. But I do watch magic a lot, and when I watch magic I appreciate the work and the effort and creativity that goes into a performance. I care very deeply for the audience in that way, that a sense of amazement is not compromise; I want them to feel that completely when they see us.”

Grandinetti said illusions generally take eight months to a year to make stage ready. While that is normally the case for him, Walking Through Steel is a big exception – by about six years.

“It did, it took seven years to perfect and get it to the stage,” he said with a chuckle. “It just wasn’t right, it had to keep being developed. Now I love it. I am so proud of it.”

Though perfectionism is one part of the equation, there’s also the many facets involved in an illusion that has to be considered. Magic isn’t simply pulling a rabbit out of one’s hat, at least not any more.

“As a magician, you have to make it look like you’re effortlessly levitating, or effortlessly walking through walls,” he said. “That involves elements of psychology, choreography, lighting, stage craft, scripting, science, physics – they all blend together. And it can be never-ending. We have an illusion that’s been in our show for 18 years and we’re still finding ways to tweak and enhance it. Sometimes it’s just changing a couple words; you get a laugh in a different place or provoke a thought in a different place, which is when psychology and scripting plays into it.”

Striking a familiar chord with the audience is one of the big draws of another favored illusion, Rosebush Through Time. On stage is a dying plant that goes back in time to become a little sprout, which then fully blooms again.

“We tell the story of when you’re an adult, how you lose your sense of magic, like the plant, but then when you remember what it was like when you were a kid, that’s when it changes, when the plant goes back into a little sprout. Possibilities appear everywhere – the rosebush blooms.”

“I was worried about the rosebush,” Grandinetti confessed. “Here we are on the world’s largest stage and I thought it would get lost, but every night we do it the audience really connects to it. It’s about creating a full theatrical experience that really connects with somebody’s emotions.”

Though Grandinetti adores stage shows, he’s very excited for “Masters of Illusion.” He said audineces aren’t tuning in to “just another magic show,” and will see illusions that have never been seen before.

“I guarantee viewers of the show will be surprised every week. It’s fast paced, you’re going to get a lot of magic in a 30 minute time period, and it’s the perfect show for everyone of all ages.”

And what of the show’s host, Dean Cain, well-known for portraying one of the greatest superheroes of our time in “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”? Surrounded by all these crafty illusionists, is it possible we see Clark Kent fly again?

“I will say this,” Grandinetti said with a laugh. “He’s doing a great job as host and…the show is full of surprises. You’ll never know what to expect.”