Two Denver magicians create intimate shows in Uptown

The performers say ‘anything is possible’ with a little magic

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Convincing an audience that stage magic is real takes more than knowing the steps to pull off a trick off. Denver magicians Gregg Tobo and William Rader say the performance is every bit as important.

“There’s a huge gap between just knowing the secret, and actually being able to entertain someone,” Tobo said. “The purpose of magic is just to remind you that anything is possible.”

Much is similar about Tobo, 51, and Rader, 32, who started doing their own show in the El Dorado room of Avenue Grill, 630 E. 17th Ave., a few months ago. Both had uncles who were amateur magicians who inspired them to learn. Both enjoy digging into the history of magic and performing. Tobo finds books from the 1920s and `30s about old tricks; Rader likes looking into older tricks to see the trends of magician performances at the time.

The two “split the difference,” as Tobo says, between the two types of magicians: those who love to create a secret trick, and those who love to perform. Tobo and Rader enjoy mastering the nuances of individual tricks. But they also enjoy seeing the wonder and reactions from a crowd as they perform.

“I think magic becomes an art when it’s performed,” Rader said. “You never really know if the magic is real.”

The two men started performing last June at Avenue Theater, also on East 17th Avenue in Denver. But after the theater closed in early March, Tobo and Rader decided to continue on their own.

Their Denver Magic Show happens on the first Thursday of every month at Avenue Grill. Their 90-minute shows are in a small and narrow room with two rows of chairs. They typically set up between 30 and 35 chairs — they like the intimacy created by small settings.

And the smaller shows are a selling point, Tobo said. People can see the magic up close, the way it “ought to be seen.”

The two magicians have different styles and skills, Rader said.

Rader likes to play off the stereotypes of magic, updating old, “classic” tricks. Tobo likes to find stories to accompany his magic tricks. He’s known for performances as the “Man who Mastered Pi,” and holds a record for having memorized more than 1,100 digits in the mathematical figure.

Having these different skill sets allows them to change up the show, Rader said. That way, returning customers won’t be seeing the same show every time.

Their magic business is a fulltime proposition, Tobo and Rader say. They also perform at private events and have performed around the world.

Mastering a magic trick can be a long process.

Tobo spends a lot of time breaking down the trick to learn it. Then he’ll go to Rader or other magician friends and perform the trick to see their reaction. This part of the process allows magicians to gauge audience reaction. Instead of emphasizing one section of a trick, magicians might notice that audiences actually react to a different part of it, Rader said. Then, Tobo takes his performance to a slightly larger audience by attending local open mic nights. After that, the trick is ready for prime time.

“You don’t really know until you do it,” Rader said. “You need the stage time to figure it out.”

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