Even those in the illusion business can’t escape reality. So when the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns began to take effect just two weeks before Magic & Wonder Theater’s planned opening at the former location of Rainbow’s Comedy Playhouse, Brett and Labrina Myers were forced to cancel all their upcoming shows.
Like so many entertainment businesses, the budding Magic & Wonder Theater faced significant financial challenges due to the pandemic.
“We realized we had 45 more days of cash and we didn’t know when we would open,” says Labrina Myers, who performs with her husband, Brett, and also helps manage the business.
Fortunately for the Paradise theater, brighter days appear to be ahead. The venue has operated since July at reduced capacity, with COVID-19 protocols in place, and kicked off its 2021 season in March with five shows a week.
And earlier this year, the Myerses and the Magic & Wonder Theater cast received the Merlin Award, a prestigious honor whose past recipients include David Copperfield, as well as Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn, better known simply as Siegfried & Roy.
Even considering their successes, the Myerses say making magic happen during a pandemic hasn’t been an easy trick to pull off. But it’s been a challenge well worth it.
“We’re offering people hope and the gift of wonder,” Labrina says. “And I think those two experiences are what people need right know because there’s so much uncertainty.”
The Merlin Award
Brett and Labrina, and the cast of the Magic & Wonder, were presented the award during a virtual ceremony by International Magicians Society president and founder Tony Hassini in February. The Merlin Award is to the world of magic what the Academy Award is to movies: the ultimate honor. Criss Angel and Penn & Teller are among the award’s other high-profile recipients.
“It’s a very humbling feeling to know that magicians that I’ve looked up to since I was a kid have won this award,” Brett says.
Merlin Award-winner David Copperfield was one of Myers’ early inspirations.
“I can remember as a kid growing up in the ’90s, David Copperfield, made the Statue of Liberty disappear,” Brett says. “As a kid I actually got to see Copperfield perform, and I was just amazed and blown away what I saw him do with the impossible.”
Due to the pandemic, the International Magicians Society reviewed the show through a video submission and made their decision to award Magic & Wonder with the prestigious honor.
Brett says his signature manipulation act — a trick where the magician shows their empty hands and then makes things appear and disappear — was one of the deciding factors in winning the award. In Brett’s trick, he uses colorful handkerchiefs and lit candles.
“It’s very difficult to hide,” Brett says, “but it’s something presented in a classical way, and put together as part of a beautiful, seamless and fluid act that showcases the talent and skill to make something impossibly appear.”
Magic amid a pandemic
There’s one thing Brett wishes he could tackle in his manipulation act.
“I would love to make the pandemic disappear,” Brett says.
COVID-19 has presented a fair share of challenges for the theater. Magic is an interactive theatrical experience, and sometimes includes touching shared objects with audience members. All of that is complicated by the pandemic.
As a result, Brett and Labrina made some changes to the mechanics of the show in regards to audience participation. Newly opened or sanitized decks of cards are provided for audience members. The performers ask guests to help provide suggestions to randomize tricks from their tables instead of bringing them onstage.
The staff wears masks and gloves and get their temperatures checked before the shows and the surfaces are all sanitized.
The theater is currently operating at 25% capacity, and all staff members wear masks. Guests are asked to wear masks when entering, exiting and moving around the theater. Other health and safety measures include enhanced cleaning and hand sanitizing stations. For more details on Magic & Wonder’s COVID-19 protocols, visit magicandwondershow.com/covid-19.
The team at Magic & Wonder Theater like to consider their magic and variety show fun for the entire family — and that includes the Myers family.
Brett and Labrina met during a magic conference about 12 years ago.
“It is such a nerdy love story,” Labrina says. “I was training as an assistant, and Brett was attending the conference. Our mentors are Mary and Duane Laflin, and Mary, the wife, decided to play matchmaker and seat us next to each other at the conference.”
They’ve performed the Magic & Wonder show in Lancaster for 6 years, first at the Bird-in-Hand Stage, and now at the former Rainbow Comedy Playhouse location.
In Magic & Wonder, Brett takes center stage as the magician creating grand illusions. Labrina acts as his assistant and performs as a high-flying aerialist who adds some comic relief during the show.
“I have a comedy character that was very much inspired by Lucille Ball,” Labrina says. “She’s a self-imposed manager of Magic & Wonder Theater. She thinks her ideas are the best ever and she comes in at random times and really derails the show.”
And even their two sons, Starlin, 5, and Kye, 3, get in on the act and perform a trick during the show.
“They love being able to share the stage with Mom and Dad, and the audience really enjoys seeing our kids appear,” Brett says. “We never force them to do their trick, but they usually want to.”
Labrina says the kids even like to put on their own shows at home, and she says they are welcome to join the family business any time.
Brett has billed himself in other performances as a “Christian illusionist,” but says the Magic and Wonder Show isn’t a specifically religious spectacle.
“There is a component of our show that reflects a value that we recognize the true source of magic and wonder,” Brett says. “There is a faith basis to what we do, but not on the level of a Sight and Sound. It’s not specifically a Christian performance.
“A lot of people like coming to this area because they like the faith heritage,” Brett continues. “I’ve walked that line. I have a strong faith personally but same time we are unapologetically a magic show – not a Christian magic show – we present the best form of entertainment out there.”
As for the future, Brett says they’ve already developed the next show: “Magic & Wonder Mystery,” with illusions and performances based on themes such as the lost city of Atlantis, Neverland from “Peter Pan,” a French masquerade ball and more.
Both Brett and Labrina say they hope to expand the show to include other forms of entertainment, but say they plan to remain in Lancaster.
“I really feel like Lancaster is such a beautiful town, and it’s a wonderful place to call home,” Brett says. “I’ve traveled all over the country, and I feel like Lancaster is just this gem. The people here are so caring, so loving and so supportive of us and our dream and our vision.”
Parking lot sermons and drive-thru dinners: Easter Sunday filled with socially distant get-togethers [photos]
While the grip of COVID-19 may be loosening, Easter Sunday again felt the effects of pandemic restrictions, as much of the business of the day was conducted from inside vehicles.
The Rev. Robert Zimmerman delivered his Easter sermon to the parking lot of Westgate Baptist Church in Lancaster, where congregants listened from inside or next to their cars. The Easter service marked a full year since Westgate began holding church services outdoors.
For many, Easter dinner was eaten at a safe social distance as well. Angelena Moldovan delivered a meal to one of the many vehicles queued up outside Gus’s Keystone Family Restaurant in Mount Joy on Sunday. The restaurant offered the meals to customers for free.