The Las Vegas Strip is cluttered with magic shows. It’s easy to find tickets for a show where men “saw” a woman in half or apply slight of hand in the elusive balls-under-cups trick. But to be taken by a couple of goofy magicians who lead the audience to believe they’re going to be let in on some of the industry’s greatest secrets is exciting and fun—if not a bit embarrassing as well.
Penn & Teller have been performing together for 30 years—five of which have been at their present venue in the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Penn Jillette acts as commentator for the show. His large frame and comedic and boisterous personality are in stark contrast to Teller (who legally has no first name). Teller acts as the silent half of the duo; his stature is small but his hands are quick. You’ve got to keep an eye on this sneaky magician. Because Penn does all of the talking in the show, Teller is frequently at the center of the tricks.
During a pre-show, jazz pianist Mike Jones and a well-disguised Penn playing bass entertain the audience as the theater fills. Audience members are invited up on stage to examine a large box. The box—a sturdy, solid wooden structure on wheels—comes into use as soon as the show starts. The lights dim, the door to the box opens … and out pops Teller. (Seriously, where does this guy come from?)
From that moment on, the show surges forward into a series of tricks and illusion acts. But like I said, this is not just another Vegas magic show. It is a mix of comedy, magic and honesty. Whereas other magicians leave the audience hanging after performing the balls-under-cups trick, Penn & Teller go a step further and explain how it’s done. Don’t be fooled, though. You may be getting the inside scoop on one of magic’s most famous tricks, but why would they give this secret up for free? I hate to break it to you, but they’re not. While audience members become giddy on their new “inside knowledge” Penn & Teller up their ante by pulling an even bigger trick on everyone in the audience. Listen carefully when Penn says that one of the biggest secrets of magic is distraction … you, too, will become a victim even after he’s warned you.
The two of them do perform some magic tricks that they don’t attempt to explain … and that’s okay too. I’m not sure anyone will ever be privy to their famous bullet trick. I swear I saw a bullet hole in the plexi glass on stage but I can’t possibly begin to explain how they both caught speeding bullets between their teeth.
I’d heard rave reviews about the Penn & Teller show since moving to Las Vegas, and now that I’ve seen the show, I agree 100% that it’s worth a visit. The pre-show music is superb and Penn & Teller’s act is top notch. Audience members will leave the theater wanting more, unsure of how to explain the things they’ve just witnessed. It’s the kind of show that leaves you thinking about it long after the humorous duo have called it a night.
Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino / 9:00 p.m. showing nightly (pre-show starts at 8:00 p.m.) / Dark Thursday and Fridays
Disclaimer: I received comped tickets to see Penn & Teller but all opinions are my own.