Performing Arts

Luminato 2013: Concerto for Piano & Pasteboards Speaks To Everyone

Spanish magician Miguel Puga merges music and illusion in a crowd-pleasing show.

Paz Sabater and Miguel Puga. Photo by Joaquin Puga.

  • Koerner Hall (273 Bloor Street West)
    • Saturday, June 15; 3 p.m.
    • Saturday, June 15; 7:30 p.m.
    • Sunday, June 16; 7:30 p.m.
  • $45

When Miguel Puga first spoke after performing a couple of introductory card tricks, it was in part to apologize for his broken English. The Spaniard, known also as MagoMigue (yes, that’s pretty much Spanish for Magic Mike), may not have the greatest command of the language, but he then proceeded to prove his assertion, as trite as it may sound, that magic possesses a universal power that can transcend ordinary communication. Blessed with a naturally funny presence and an undeniable gift for showmanship, Puga’s expert card manipulations were every bit as impressive as the apparent telepathic abilities he put to good effect on more than one occasion.

Working with the idea that the classic magician’s tool of a 52-card deck matches the number of white keys on a grand piano, the show also incorporated music, courtesy of co-star Paz Sabater. At times merely providing background accompaniment, she stepped to the forefront for one exhilarating trick featuring some head-scratching plays on “name that tune.” At another point Puga sat down to tickle the ivories for a while, and Sabater seized the opportunity to perform some impressive sleight of hand of her own.

Of course, any magic show is only going to be as good as its audience and on the opening night of Luminato, the one assembled was more than up to the task. As is often the case, bringing children on stage to partake in the action added an extra element of wonder to every reveal. Though as Puga noted, every solicitation for an audience member yielded a familiar burying of eyes in laps, it was the same reluctant participants that became an integral part of the performance. There’s no better testament to how disarming a good magician like Puga can be than watching some shy woman pulled from her seat slowly become comfortable as she grows more immersed in the outcome of the trick she’s helping with than anyone else in the room.

Pausing to reflect on his upbringing in Granada, where he just opened the city’s first magic school, Puga briefly honoured those that first introduced him to the world of illusion, including renowned French silent filmmaker George Méliès.

In an important sense, the rapport he established was Puga’s greatest misdirection of all, using humour throughout his performance to create a deepening connection with the audience. By the time he returned to the stage for an encore of mind-blowing rope tricks set to the theme from Forrest Gump, no translations were needed at all.

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