David Copperfield has something extraterrestrial up his sleeve.
Las Vegas’s spectacular new nightclubs are great for the city, but bad for its shows. They draw people away—ask any ticket broker. But one performer’s numbers have held strong—gone up even, by $3 million in the past year alone. The performer? David Copperfield.
Over the last 35 years, Copperfield’s appeal hasn’t wavered, although his stage persona has undergone a real transformation. “Before, dance was a big component of the show,” he says. “But when everybody started doing it, I knew I had to search for new ground, for a new way to connect with people.”
Copperfield used to tell stories through sheer physicality. Now he does it with words. Stories of inspiration, of love, of loss—they’re a ll packed into his MGM Grand show. And now he’s preparing to share his greatest story yet: the story of his father. “He was an aerial engineer in the Air Force. Technically my mom outranked him: She was a sergeant and he was a corporal.”
After his father left the Air Force, he was offered a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He turned it down. Despite his passion for acting, he wanted to ensure he could put food on his family’s table. “When he passed away,” Copperfield says, “I was onstage doing a show. I never had a chance to really say goodbye.” After the funeral, his father’s belongings were shipped to Las Vegas, where Copperfield combed through all of them, bit by bit. “I found his Air Force card, and it showed he was stationed at Roswell at the exact time the aliens supposedly landed. It’s ironic: I’m in the mystery business, but until recently I didn’t know the most mysterious part of my father’s life.”
With his father, circa 1963.
As Copperfield contemplated the card, his imagination ran wild. The challenge was extracting the incredible movie playing in his brain and putting it onstage. He knew he couldn’t do it alone, so he enlisted the help of a diverse team of storytellers—magicians, artists, builders, and writers.
They worked late into the night, often until 3 or 4 am, questioning, polishing, breaking down, building up, bringing his vision to life. And you’ll be able to see the results of that hard work in early 2014, when the Roswell illusion debuts. Copperfield won’t give away many details, but he can tell us two things.
One, he has big goals for the piece. He doesn’t just want to amaze; he wants to inspire. “Right now I make a car appear,” he says. “And when I watch people react, I see them transform. But what I’ve discovered is that the transformation is momentary. The new goal now is to create something that resonates with people after they leave the theater. To inspire them to dream.”
The second thing he can tell us about the Roswell illusion? Expect aliens. David Copperfield performs December 1–4 and 15–31 at the Hollywood Theatre, 866-740-7711.