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There's magic at the Ritz

Enjoy the wonder of Nelson Illusions at the Ritz Theatre in Tiffin.
John Benson
Jan 7, 2013

As a child Jeff Nelson was intrigued by magic. What began as elementary school sleight-of-hand performances has blossomed decades later into touring the globe as one of the top illusionists. Today, he’s a part of Nelson Illusions, which includes his wife Lynn and daughter Sharii. The one-of-a-kind theatrical spectacle makes its Tiffin debut Jan. 12 at The Ritz Theatre.

Want to go?
WHAT: Nelson Illusions – Smoke & Mystery Tour
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12
WHERE: The Ritz Theatre, 30 S. Washington St., Tiffin
COST: $10
INFO: www.ritztheatre.org

Funcoast talked to Nelson about his family’s Smoke & Mystery Tour, which includes illusions ranging from an elegant floating woman to a girl who risks death on the point of a giant industrial drill. 

Funcoast: Tell us a little bit about Nelson Illusions.
Jeff Nelson (JN): We’re the largest touring show in the country. We also have a number of illusions such as shrinking a woman to 6 inches tall, splitting her in two with a five-foot industrial saw. You’re going to see her actually cut in two and pulled apart. We don’t use boxes. We also have a 22-foot Ferrari helicopter that will make an appearance. We’re bringing the largest illusion, which is the industrial drill. It weighs 4,000 pounds and travels down a 21-foot-track and goes right through Sharii. That’s the finale. The illusions also are very spectacular. Most shows tour with four to six illusions, and we’re bringing at least 14.

Funcoast: We see Nelson Illusions is steampunk. What exactly is that?
JN: To me steampunk is taking all of the beautiful arts and crafts of the 18th and 19th centuries and kind of updating them. While having a helicopter, we’re also wearing corsets in the show. We have this beautiful old clock representing Big Ben in England. Really steampunk takes top hats and coats Sherlock Holmes would wear and puts it into the show.

Funcoast: Is there something you can compare it to?
JN: Like the movie “The League of Extraordinary Gentleman” with Sean Connery. It’s like a genre. Whereas a lot of acts are doing the grunge thing where they’re wearing t-shirts and jeans on stage, we’re in full costumes and we also have some scenery we’re bringing with us, as well. Such as beautiful pipes with smoke coming out. We have a wonderful old map we’ll be using on the stage. So it’s a bit different.

Funcoast: It really sounds like Nelsons Illusions is a modern-day Las Vegas magic show.
JN: We’ve been to Vegas with the show and it’s like Cirque du Soleil. We just did a show in Rhode Island and they said this show was three times larger than any other illusion show they ever had in. David Copperfield does an hour of stage magic and video, and we do an hour and a half.

Funcoast: You know the world is filled with haters who want nothing more than to come out and see right through your illusions?
JN: Come and have a good time. We don’t care about people being fooled. We want you to try to figure out how it’s done. It’s all about laughing and crying and being amazed and wonder. We don’t care if we fool people. It’s a theater show. We’re art and art makes you feel things. That’s what it’s all about.

Funcoast: Wait, what will we be crying about?
JN: If you ever saw someone have a drill put through them you might get a little worried too.