March 11, 2013

El Capitan brings magic to the movies

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Movies at 8:39 pm by dinaheng

There’s something magical about seeing a movie in an historic theater. You know, the kind that has grand balconies and opera boxes, where actual stage shows were once performed.

For the first three weeks, through March 31, audiences at the historic El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood will enjoy a special treat with each showing of Disney’s “Oz the Great and Powerful.” In addition to live organ music before the show, movie-goers will get to peruse costumes from the film, and see a live magic show, “Mysteries of Magic,” starring Greg Wilson, an award-winning magician who has performed on stage and television since childhood.Dinah Eng

Wilson, the son of famed magicians and entertainment producers Mark Wilson and Nani Darnell (“The Magic Land of Allakazam”), performed on “The Mickey Mouse Club” as a kid, and has toured the world creating illusions ever since. His appearance at the El Capitan is a perfect introduction to the film that tells the origins of Oscar Diggs, a carnival magician (played by James Franco) who becomes the Wizard of Oz.

“One of my favorite illusions to perform is levitation, and I’d seen reference to that in the trailer for the movie,” explains Wilson, who decided to recreate illusions from the first stage show with Mickey Mouse characters done by an outside vendor (his parents) at Disneyland in 1967.

“Their Allakazam Railroad illusion, which I do in this show, was their signature piece. I’d performed it many times with Dad cutting Mom in half, but never in my own show. Mom was gracious enough to let me take the box out, and share it with audiences again.”

Greg Wilson and assistants in Disney's Mysteries of Magic show at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises.

Greg Wilson and assistants in Disney’s Mysteries of Magic show at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises.

Wilson performs before every show daily, from 10 a.m. to 7:45 p.m., with a fifth show at 10: 55 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The 18-minute magic show includes audience participation and traditional tricks sure to please.

“The magic I’m presenting is an older style magic designed for a historic theater this size,” Wilson says. “So the fit is perfect. Being able to change the scenery, with a modern light and sound system also allows me to do things like create the illusion of a girl vanishing on stage, flying through the air, and re-appearing in the opera box.”

Watching Wilson’s show at The El Capitan is a special treat for audiences who’d like to experience what going to the movies in the past was like, while enjoying the latest in projection and sound technology for the film itself.  Built in 1926, the movie palace was billed as “Hollywood’s First Home of Spoken Drama,” and has been meticulously restored to its original splendor.

History comes alive at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises.

History comes alive at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises.

Wilson says performing on the historic stage is an honor, and it was great fun designing his show to complement “Oz the Great and Powerful.” He notes that he particularly enjoyed watching Franco perform magic tricks in the opening sequence of the film.

“Producing a dove is not an easy trick, and he did a good job,” says the expert. “I got a chance to meet him, and he told me that he dedicated a lot of time learning to do the magic in the show. The film itself is great fun. I’d love to go to Oz and be the Wizard.”

For more information, check out http://elcapitan.go.com.

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