Like magic, four semi-truck trailers – filled with elaborate illusions – arrived at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. They won’t disappear for at least two weeks.
The Magic of Rob Lake will be presented from Dec. 22 to Jan. 7.
“It takes about a week to install,” Lake told Tahoe Onstage by telephone during the illusionist’s rare time at his Oklahoma home. There are 20 cast and crew members.
Lake is an illusionist of the grandest scale. The motorcycle he rides during a performance just might explode before it disappears, so watch closely.
“We have several really big and large illusions, but even though we have some grand-scale magic happening, I try to involve the audience as much as I can,” Lake said.
“Several times, I bring the magic into the audience or bring people onstage to make the whole show interactive. For the most difficult illusion of the entire show, I invite about 10 volunteers onstage so they can witness the illusion from every possible angle. It’s an illusion I’ve worked on for five years, but I don’t want to give too much away.”
The heaviest item he’s made disappear to appear was a 20-ton armored truck with $1 million inside of it. Lake has appeared at Times Square, Atlantic City and the Las Vegas Strip. This will be his first time at Lake Tahoe. In 2008 at age 26, he was the youngest ever to win the Merlin Award, the top worldwide honor for a magician.
Lake said he always wanted to be an entertainer and was only a child when he knew what kind.
“I started when I was 10 years old and I basically never grew up,” he said. “My family went on vacation in Branson, Missouri, and we saw a (Kirby VanBurch) magic show and I knew immediately that that was what I was supposed to do with my life. It wasn’t like I thought it would be a cool hobby. I knew my calling in a heartbeat.”
Lake studied magic from library books, attended theater camps and he joined an amateur magic club.
“I would drive my friends and family and my teachers with crazy card tricks or coin tricks,” he said. “I would force everybody to watch me do my magic nonstop. … My heroes were Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg. My inspiration and direction was always stage illusions.”
Lake will perform nine 80-minute shows in the South Shore Room. Casino owner Bill Harrah built the venue in 1959 to attract visitors who attended the 1960 Winter Olympic Games at Squaw Valley. Lake’s hero, Walt Disney, was instrumental in presenting the Olympics in a grand scale for the first time, with elaborate opening, closing and victory ceremonies, along with a torch relay from Hollywood to the Sierra Nevada. (Disney also funded and helped start North Shore’s Sugar Bowl resort in 1939.)
“I am inspired by innovators — I call them wizards,” Lake said. “People with imagination and passion who inspire and create wonder.”
When he spoke with Tahoe Onstage in November, Lake had just returned from a two-month European tour with Armed Forces Entertainment. He will spend Christmas, New Year’s and his 34th birthday in a hotel, something he has done every year for a decade.
He said keeps his life in balance on the road by being surrounded by his “magical family” of the 20 people he handpicked. He works out and swims, and he travels with his own kitchen, preparing his own meals. “I am a foodie,” Lake said.
“Last year I was gone from home the longest,” he said. “When I would come home, I would kidnap my mom’s dog. Being on the road without a dog was the hardest thing. I took my grandparents out to lunch one time when I was home and we walked by a dog adoption site. There was a little rescue dog in a cage and I just knew I had to get him.”
Lake did, in fact, adopt the dog, Roger, a Yorkie mutt. “Having him keeps me a lot calmer and well-grounded,” he said.
The magician uses a simple trick to ensure Roger will always be at his side.
“I put him in the show, so no theater or hotel can refuse him,” Lake said.
- The Magic of Rob Lake
Dec. 22 to Jan. 7 in Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room
Shows: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 27, 28, 30, Jan. 1, 6, 7
Early shows: 4 p.m. Dec. 30, Jan. 1, Jan. 7
Children: must be 6 or older