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Las Vegas Magic: Jeff McBride's Wonderground Is Good Medicine

Wonderful lighting shown on dancing belly dancers. Swing dancing belly dancers with a whole lot of other choreographed belly dancing.
Wonderful lighting shown on dancing belly dancers. Swing dancing belly dancers with a whole lot of other choreographed belly dancing.
photo by Thomas Stark; New World Rhythmatism dancing

On the night of Thursday March 20, 2014, I was invited by Jeff McBride to come see his performers at The Olive. At only $10 to enter, I got way more than I paid for. Upon entering, I was greeted at the door by clever magician and host Tim Wise. He always looks so happy, maybe something in the air. The main lounge was accented by cascading red light and a hodgepodge of Mediterranean art. The Olive is a Mediterranean Restaurant with full bar and hookah lounge. This was a night of pure imagination in its truest form. As part of Wonderground's Manifesto reads, “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; ... Imagination is more important than knowledge.” –Albert Einstein
The air was thick with the smells of Hookah, maybe because I found myself standing right next to the hookah grill, downstage left. The hookah servers were busy firing up more hookah on the grill as I readied myself for taking some exceptional images. Lighting and A/V was provided by Scott Steelfyre. Half of this magic is behind the scenes. With extraordinary lighting on cue, this was the only way I was able to get some of these images.
At 8:00PM, first on stage was Abigail McBride, Jeff McBride's wife, with her belly dancers known as New World Rhythmatism. The dancing was a mixture of swing dancing with belly dancing. This was yet another creatively choreographed dance number which sets the bar with stage belly dancing. The ensemble wore lots of colorful attire and these magic pants or at least white and black striped bell bottom pants. Magic pants? Depending on how the pants are used...this is another story. Again every show is different. I hold back as one just has to go to experience the optical illusions in person.
Next, American Gypsy and Accordionist Jon d' Ark took the stage playing for Jeff McBride. The melodies were very French sounding as Jeff unveiled an array of magic tricks. It was like being transported to another time in pantomime history. Jeff was costumed as the 19th century masked pantomime villain. This was similar to a french passion play but Jeff was not entirely a harlequin but another creation, the host of hosts. Jeff dressed in black coat flocked with many LEDs, plague doctor's mask, and old top hat to mesmerize the crowd.
Jeff takes great pride in his work. Wonderground is a place where people and other magicians can go and enjoy themselves. I heard from someone unnamed that Jeff puts these shows on from the goodness in his heart. It is not for profit. There is no money in these monthly shows. He puts all his time in his shows in London and his mystery school. See live performances of Jeff McBride's lessons every Monday night at 7PM. He helps doctors and magicians alike to perfect their craft. From my understanding of ancient Egypt, the doctors, the priests, and even lawyers were all considered magicians. So, it makes perfect sense that in present day, same as in the past, magicians would come to the aid of professionals. What would a magician have to teach some scholarly minded academic? Open a book on ancient Egypt. I could go on and on about Ra, Isis, Horus, and oh yes Seth. Not that everyone going to Jeff will be able to tame crocodiles and turn inanimate objects into servants, but he does have gifts. You can see it in the intensity in his eyes.
Who was yet to second M.C. Jeff McBride, but, co-host Tim Wise with his fire tricks. Decked out in a large turbine and arabic looking elongated shoulder pads, he had the look down of a warlock. He enjoys eating fire. He enjoys talking about it as much as presenting it.
Tim introduced comedic and magical relief Kevin & Janet Hall (winner of the Star Award best Entertainment of 2005). This was just the funniest of the show to me personally. These 2 had everyone rolling. If not for wardrobe malfunctions then for arsenic in the card deck, it was difficult to remain steady with my camera. He had his own rendition of the man in the bubble, which had him looking more like some elastic rubber animal. He brought a member of the audience on stage for a memory she wont soon forget. Nothing but laughs.
The Cecile and Mighty Show extended the comedy into something of beauty with their birds and fascination. Always seen with a rose Mighty Torrent made the audience gasp with his elaborate gymnastics. There was pure aw with all of the various colored birds. Birds coming out balloons, birds hiding underneath scarfs, and birds of a feather flock together.
During the intermission, more magic was presented individually by magicians such as David Groves with his amazing card tricks and Zackory Pattee with his magical cards. When I bumped into Jeff McBride, he said the show was just beginning. He told me that most often the magicians are different each month with no repeating acts. These are all original acts not seen yet.
After more exquisite belly dancing from Abigail McBride and her sensuous beauties, was the combination work of art Stephanie Castellone contortion artist with Anthony Rais's marionette Malachi. The unique combination is known as Les Contortionettes. After seeing their show it was no wonder why he won 2013 puppeteer of the year. And the contortions Stephanie was able to get into was quite the challenge for Malachi. This was just a beautiful array of colors and spellbinding twists. This is very smart art. Not only is Stephanie a contortionist and aerial acrobat but as well an R.N.
The next mesmerizing experience was Female Magician of the Year, Ariann Black. She is now staring in her show Secrets at the Westin Hotel Las Vegas nightly at 7PM, except Wednesday. With quick gestures, inanimate and animated objects appeared before my eyes with astonishing speed. Her act was accented quite well by her magical cage of birds. She has not only beauty but grace. It was like being in front of an ancient spell caster waiting for what she was going to do to me next. Turn me into an inanimate object? Oh, I can only dream.
Brett Loudermilk performs at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. He is a rising star who has performed on the Tonight Show as well with his unique sword swallowing act. He makes this comical as well as very entertaining for audiences despite its dangers. These are real swords of varying shapes going down the esophagus. He has come a long way in a short time.And then was Bizzaro with his fire antics. He is a frequent pantomime of Wonderground with acts ranging from levetating Doritos to lighting his pants on fire. He is sure to make the audience gasp at how he does these things. He has big time flare with his unique red hat and black overcoat accented red. He is the pyro of magic. I believe fire is his best friend. He is also known to use a lot of other light sources to create a mesmerizing experience. Dont try to figure out how he does his tricks. You wont.
The closing act was the coolest magician on earth Rudy Coby. He performed an act which made him look wildly fun and unearthly with multiple legs and ever morphing body. He looked to be part mad scientist and part coolest guy on Earth. I have never seen someone dance with 4 legs before. This was a first. Lucky fan Lisa Land of Scott Land's Marionettes was present and got a photo opp with Rudy.
The cast took their bow and Areeya presented her painting she produces on the spot. She explores art meditation with guests while the performances go on. Feel free to commission something from her. And feel free to contact any of these incredible performers for your venue. These are all famous performers and can only add to the excitement. Come to Jeff McBride's Wonderground and see for yourself.
The Olive Medetarranian Restaurent and Hookah Lounge is located at 3850 East Sunset Road Las Vegas, Nevada 89120 (877) 331-8525. The show starts at 8PM every 3rd Thursday of the month. Get there a little early as seats fill up fast.

Stephanie Castellone with Anthony Rais's marionette Malachi
photo by Thomas Stark: performed by Stephanie Castellone and Anthony Rais
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