Magic doesn't suck anymore - honest

Showmanship: Dan Sperry’s scary  image was noticed by entertainment producers in  Las Vegas.
Showmanship: Dan Sperry’s scary image was noticed by entertainment producers in Las Vegas.
Macabre: Dan Sperry of The Illusionists performs to heavy rock and metal.
Macabre: Dan Sperry of The Illusionists performs to heavy rock and metal.

It's strange to think that watching a magician die could plant a seed so strong it would see 4-year-old Dan Sperry grow up to be the infamous Anti-conjuror. Yet, that's how it happened. Kind of.

His grandparents took him to see David Copperfield, who opened his show with his spinning saw trick. At the ripe old age of 4, Sperry watched an icon cut into two and the rest, as they say, is history.

"We had to leave the theatre because it freaked me out so much. I never saw him get put back together, we never saw the end of the show, we just left. I was just like, I just saw a guy die," he recalls.

But from that point on, that show became what magic was about for Sperry, who now comes with the tagline "magic no longer sucks", which while upsetting some magical peers, now defines a new age of magic.

Rocking a Marilyn Manson-esque look, performing to heavy rock and metal, channelling the macabre and throwing in some not-quite-for-everyone humour, Sperry has played gigs everywhere from college frat functions and goth clubs to the Vegas strip, Broadway and abroad.

Yeah, he's done the odd kid's birthday party, but when that kid happens to belong to Johnny Depp, it's kind of a different story.

"I was just doing a nightclub thing and [Johnny Depp] rented it out one day for his kid's birthday party, and me and two other guys were brought in to do a show for the Depps. We didn't meet 'em, we were told to just keep it professional. You don't really try to chase him down or whatever, but it was pretty cool."

So this dark and scary Anti-conjuror is child-friendly? Apparently so. It's nothing kids can't already see on TV, he says.

"I just kinda throw stuff together that would hopefully be fun and different and magical and entertaining in its own way and hope that people like it," he says.

"Anti-conjurer is just a word I made up. It just says what I do without using the words magician or illusionist. But also I used to do a lot of opening for bands at night clubs and goth clubs and stuff and any magician that went into a club like that would just get booed off stage and have stuff thrown at 'em."

But he's created an image so enticing it attracted producers all the way to the Vegas Strip to rope him into joining The Illusionists - a group presenting what is now being called the most "spectacular magic show ever".

Joining the master of shock illusions is an escapologist, a magical inventor, a mind reader ( The Mentalist) a comedy magician (The Trickster), a classical magician (The Gentleman, who once made a jumbo jet disappear) and The Enchantress.

Handpicked and put together by producers, The Illusionists have just put on a sold out season at the Sydney Opera House, selling more than $3 million of tickets in eight days.

They're bringing an assembled cast of 20 sidekicks to present jaw-dropping acts in each magician's specialty, including - for the first time - a full view water torture escape.

And in the spirit of true showmanship, they're even bringing their own support band, which is none other than hip-hop mogul Nas' band, Z.

If ever there was an absolutely must-see magic show, this would be it. Dan Sperry and The Illusionists will be at the Civic in Auckland, from May 22 to June 2.

Showtimes are: 7.30pm, Wednesday to Saturday (and an additional 2pm show on Saturdays), 11am and 3pm on Sundays and a 6.30pm show on Tuesday, May 28.

Tickets start at $69.90. For more info, or to buy tickets see the-edge.co.nz/illusionists.

Waikato