Originally posted Friday, August 10, 2018 by RODNEY HOemail@example.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Four years ago, Mat Franco became the first magician crowned winner of NBC’s hit show “America’s Got Talent,” a feat that has yet to be repeated.
He quickly landed a full-time gig in Las Vegas at the Linq Hotel and did so well, the hotel named a 600-seat theater after him and plastered his face on the side of the hotel.
Franco works at the Linq 46 weeks a year, 10 shows a week, recently celebrating his 1,000th show. But instead of taking the other six weeks off to unwind, he works on new illusions and sleight-of-hand tricks or goes on the road to tour. He comes to Atlanta for the first time on Thursday, August 16 at the 1,000-seat capacity Center Stage in Midtown.. (Buy tickets here.)
“I’ve been to the Atlanta airport a million times,” Franco said in a phone interview today. “I used to travel out of Rhode Island on Delta. I had to pass through Detroit or Atlanta. I’ve never been to Atlanta to do a show. I’m really excited about it.”
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The engaging entertainer with the megawatt smile said he’s a bit of a workaholic. He likes to bring his show out to the masses who voted for him in 2014 and haven’t made it to Vegas. “My personality doesn’t vacation well,” he said. “I go a little stir crazy after a few days. I love my job. I love what I do.”
And while the road show does feature some bits he does in Vegas, he also salts in tricks he’s done on TV as well as original illusions he doesn’t do at the Linq.
He brings four crew members with him, but his show on the most part looks like it’s just him. And while he has props, some of the mechanisms are are invisible to the audience.
Indeed, his tricks are low key and not at all Copperfield like. They involve every day objects like playing cards, balls, milk cartons or bottles of wine. “It’s casual,” he said. “No bunnies or tigers or people in boxes.”
He is a wordsmith, throwing out quickly paced lines that are both conversational and authoritative while avoiding typical cheesy magician’s banter.
He never thought he’d win “AGT.” He figured his audition would provide him some video to get him more work. Instead, “the whole experience never ended. I kept getting voting through to the next round. Next thing you know, I’ve won the show!”
Franco said he think singers tend to win “AGT” because they can evoke a particular emotion based on what they sing. He said magicians can sometimes confuse people: are they supposed to try to figure out the trick or just sit back and go along for the ride?
Since “AGT,” Franco has adjusted to life in the desert. “It’s a great place to be,” he said. “I’ve got some pretty good friends in the entertainment and magic community. It’s a joy to be a part of this world. I was catapulted into it beyond my wildest dreams.”
He has been able to meet two of his childhood idols - Bill Malone and Jeff MCBride. He got to hang out with Malone recently and though Franco has been doing tricks for 26 of his 30 years, Malone “makes me feel like a beginner. It’s frustrating because I feel like I’m starting all over.”
Famous folks such as Giada De Laurentiis, Guy Fieri, Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum have popped into the Mat Franco Theater. And “AGT” judge Howie Mandel and fellow Vegas “AGT” winner and ventriloquist genius Terry Fator have swung by, too.
At just age 30, Franco is thrilled to be able to do magic and making a good living at it, too. “I’m in this business to make people happy,” he said. “I want to take people out of their every-day world even for just an hour, hour and a half and transport them to a place where they don’t have to worry about email or the office or the kids. It’s about sharing joy with people doing what I love to do.’
Center Stage Theater
374 West Peachtree Street NW, Atlanta