By Dave Woods
Digital market development manager
BRANSON, Mo. —
Taylor Reed remembers the morning his life changed.
"It started on Christmas Day," said Reed, a longtime magician, illusionist and comedian. "Under the Christmas tree there was a magic kit."
For Reed, the box of simple tricks wasn't just another toy.
"It was life-changing," he said. "I lit up. From that time on it was just magic, magic and magic. It wasn't just a passing hobby. A lot of kids get a magic kit and just throw it away. I never turned back. I just really loved it."
At 4 years old, Reed remembers that he couldn't read yet, but that didn't stop the magic-obsessed Texan from digging into his new obsession.
"I learned by looking at the drawings," Reed said. "Step 1, step 2, step 3. My mom and dad would be amazed. They didn't even know how it worked. They were very shocked that I could figure it out by myself. It was neat as a child to have my family in awe about what I did."
Reed believes his illusions and magic tricks -- big and small -- bring out a childlike curiosity in his audiences.
"I try to take people back to their childhood," the 40-something entertainer said. "I think that when people got to shows they want to forget about all of the real things that are going on in their lives; paying bills and all of the stress. It's a little fantasy world. When people go in to watch a movie or a magic show, it's time for people to forget about the real problems. I like to take them on a little travel of dreams."
Shuffle and sidekick
During the past decade, Reed has become accustomed to what he calls "the Branson shuffle." It's the annual period during Branson's offseason when performers migrate from theater to theater, always looking for a better venue to park their show for the coming year.
Reed has seen his share of venues, large and small. He's played at The Music City Center, The Clay Cooper Theatre, Fifty's at The Hop Theater, The Branson Mall and others. Being able to keep the peace and get along with other performers on stage and behind the scenes is key to his continued success in Branson.
Magicians sometimes get a bad rap because of the amount of props and personnel needed to create the grand illusions, he explained.
"It's the magicians that always have all the big props and a bunch of stuff," he said, laughing. "Some of the theaters have up to five shows a day. Even when you are a nice guy, you have to have a good relationship with performers you share a theater with. I'm a laid-back guy from Texas, so I've been able to work with all of the shows and my fellow entertainers. So, I can keep doing what I'm doing."
Reed, his fire-eating sidekick, Ziggy, and a cast of dancers and stagehands have settled in for the season at The Masters of Magic Theatre. He said he's happy there. Ziggy, who started out running a spotlight for one of Reed's shows, eventually caught the magician's eye.
"I didn't really know him," Reed said. "He was just a kid doing my spotlight. I went to a magic convention in town and Ziggy was the emcee of the convention show. Are we kidding here? Then he ran out on stage and really killed it. He was a really well-spoken guy on the mic and he was just quite amazing. The next day I told him that he wasn't going to be the spotlight guy anymore; he was going to be my sidekick and emcee and prop master and illusion guy. He makes sure all of my illusions are working perfectly."
Now, almost seven years later, Ziggy is an integral part of Reed's crew.
"The show we are doing now is so much bigger than what we have done before," he said. "I've been working other theaters and waiting for this opportunity. Now, I'm the only show in the building and the place was made for magic. There is a lot of room for all of my illusions. It's really exciting to work in such a large amount of space. We can pull out all of the props."
Adult men and kids of all ages are intrigued by his show. Women, however, take a little convincing.
"A lot of the men absolutely love magic," Reed said. "They think about their childhoods and they liked magic. Older women are a harder sell. They have it in their minds that they don't like magic."
Reed says his show isn't a typical magic show.
"It's like a variety show," he said. "It's not a traditional magic show. I don't wear a black cape. It's upbeat and a colorful type show, more like a comedy show with magic."
Many of Reed's illusions rely on the cooperation of sometimes timid audience members.
"I try to do things that are lighthearted with a lot of audience interaction," said Reed. "I just want everybody in the audience to feel like a part of the show. We are playing together. But at the same time, I want them to see some stuff that attracts them to magic."
Want to go?
The Magic & Comedy of Taylor Reed is presented at Masters of Magic Theatre, located at 2352 State Highway 248 in Branson. Details: 417-337-7155 or www.taylorreed.com.