The Queen Mary, in association with The Academy of Magical Arts [operators of the legendary Magic Castle], is presenting FantaSea, a weekend of magic performances aboard the beautiful and historic ship. The program starts on Friday, April 8 with the Friday Night of Illusions. Taking place in the Queen’s Salon, the show will feature celebrated illusionist and entertainer, Murray SawChuck.

SawChuck was a finalist on America’s Got Talent, has a regular gig at the Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas strip, and has millions of views for viral videos he’s created. Still, he’s rooted in the tradition and history of magic, and is constantly discovering new twists on classic illusions.

Long Beach Post: How do you develop new illusions, or re-imagine classics that can fool sophisticated audiences?

Murray SawChuck: If you are a musician, singing or writing a love song has been done over and over and over again. It’s the same with a painting of a lake, cabin, mountains, or people. The idea is to put yourself into the art. When I create something, it’s based on me, my life, my style, and my brand. That’s how you design something unique and different.

In magic there are only about seven principals of what you can do: Teleportation, cutting in half, vanishing, appearing, levitating, etc. What changes is the premise, and the story you build around it.

I am doing many viral videos right now. One trick I do is vanishing a champagne bottle in a brown bag, on stage, in a comical kind of way. I have done it for 23 years. We just did a viral video four months ago, one of our first ones, where I am caught drinking champagne on a park bench by a cop who tells me that I can’t drink in public. I put the bottle in a bag, deny drinking it, then vanish it. I don’t get a fine, walk away, and pull it back out of the bag and keep drinking it. It is the same trick I’ve always done, but I designed it for a different premise and venue. That video got 47 million views. It is the same trick I have done for 23 years, but revamped, and it looks like a new trick.

MurraySawchuck03What inspired you to pursue magic in the first place?

I saw David Copperfield vanish the statue of liberty on TV when I was like 10 years old. I thought it would be super cool to do something like that for a living. I got a magic kit from my uncle and aunt—Bill and Olga Sawchuck—then later got magic from my parents—John and Arlene Sawchuck.

Performing seems like a glorious thing, but developing the skills to do a good performance is rather solitary work. How did you navigate that as a kid?

It’s hard, especially as a kid, as kids love things one moment, then the passion is gone and they like something else. Music was my first introduction into showbiz. I started playing accordion, then organ/piano, then saxophone at the age of five. I also started Ukrainian Dancing with ballet training, swing and break dancing, all around the same age.

At seven years old, I got my first magic kit and fell in love with it. I would do talent shows in music and dance, so I got used to audiences, and walking on stage. With magic, walking on stage was easy. The hard part was learning this new skill and doing it well. Once I saw that the tricks worked for the people and, instead of them saying, “go back to your room,” or faking that they liked what I did, they were like, “Hey, kid! How did you do that?”

One of my uncles, Don Stalman—my dad’s best man—came over one time in the early days and I did a rope trick for him. He tried so hard to figure it out and, from that moment, I knew I was doing something right.

If I may I offer an observation, Ukrainian dancing could be an excellent tool for misdirection.

[laughs] Yes, it could. Me playing the accordion could be a huge misdirection for ever getting a date in my entire life! [laughs] I gave them both up around 16 years old and finally got a girlfriend. [laughs]


Mr. Electric, one of SawChuck’s early mentors.

Who were your early mentors? Were there people who were willing to work with you and teach you the more sophisticated illusions?

Yes. I had two. One—in my early years back in Vancouver, Canada—named Shawn Farquhar. He is an accomplish magician in Canada. He really showed me the ropes of the basics of magic. He sold me some small illusions, and taught me how to write a press release. He also introduced me to my second mentors: Marvyn and Carol Roy a.k.a. Mr. Electric.

Mr. Electric was one of the top magic variety acts of the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s… he would make light bulbs light up in his bare hands. They performed everywhere in the world and were hugely famous for being different. Marv is now 91, living in Palm Springs, and still is doing great! Carol left us a few years ago. He taught me how important it is to be different, unique, and have a brand or a hook.

You mentioned that you’d developed a ‘brand identity’ for yourself. Can you explain how you came up with it, what that is, and why it is important?

I originally created an act where I manipulated Compact Discs. This was back in 1990. I was the first to ever do it, and I toured the world with the act for 15 years. It really broke me into the magic world, and started I to make a name for myself. Then, I wanted more of a look. I saw Rod Stewart, Phyllis Diller, and Andy Warhol and realized that no magician ever had messed up hair like that. With my look, it might be very Dennis the Menace, so I went for it.

I watched the movie MASK with Jim Carrey and loved his yellow zoot suit, so I had one made in an electric blue, which worked well for my build and the color worked with my hair. Later, in my 20’s, I needed glasses but never wore them on stage. An agent by the name of Chuck Harris said that I should wear my black framed glasses on stage because it would give me a striking look with everything, and that’s how my look was built over time.

As for the brand, it is a full package, with looks, style and skill. With me, it is very Dennis the Menace with the comic look, and where tons of things go wrong, comically. At the end, they all work out and the magic really does happen.

When you are performing on the Queen Mary this Friday, will you make the ship disappear?

[laughs] When I was down there, yesterday, that did cross my mind. I think that would be cool for a TV Special, so that is definitely something I am going to think about but, for Friday’s performance, we are going to keep the ship there and the magic will be inside the ship. I am bringing my guest act, Lefty, with me and my assistant, April, for the Friday night show. It’s going to be great. My mom is flying in from Vancouver, too, and will be with me, which will be great! 

For tickets and information about FantaSea, visit To learn more about Murray, visit, or check out his Youtube Channel. To learn more about the Academy of Magical Arts, visit

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