If, as his TV ads bombastically proclaim, "You will always remember the magic of Lance Burton!", then when have I forgotten so much of his routine already? In truth, if you go to any Las Vegas magic show (with the probable exception of Penn & Teller's), you are likely to see the exact same bag of tricks. Burton's claim to fame is that he's doing what the other guys are - but on a more ambitious scale. Yes, others levitate showgirls ... but Burton does so in a 360-degree arc and them floats himself alongside her.
In keeping with the Belle Epoque environs of his eponymous show, Burton's extravaganza opens in pleasantly old-fashioned style, replete with thunder and lightning effects. Superb scenic design makes evocative use of translucent scrims and painted drops, in the grand manner. There is a (very loose) plot thread involving a recurring, Phantom of the Opera-type figure who, at the climax, will be revealed - spoiler alert! - to be Burton himself.
A brief primer on the history of stage magicians seems to ground us firmly in the late 19th/early 20th century. Whereupon a Terminator-like robot appears, which gradually morphs into Burton. The latter segues into a quick succession of tricks: turning gloves into doves, producing six dancers from an empty valise, etc.
It may take a good portion of the show to adjust to Burton's physical appearance. At least one cosmetic surgery too many has left his face frozen in a Joker-like rictus. The superannuated tones of Burton's voice ill-accord with his would-be youthful appearance. It's as though a little old man is stuck in a child's body.
Burton's gags are scarcely unimpressive. Not only does he pour champagne into a glass that's seemingly hovering in midair, he does it right down in the front rows, daring audience members to suss out his trickery. While Burton's wire work is very occasionally evident, the absence of a hard-sell approach from his show puts one in an indulgent mood (though perhaps not indulgent enough to sit patiently through Michael Goudeau's mid-show juggling act, which contains some wobbly unicycle riding).
The magician's own genially laid-back stage persona translates into a leisurely paced show, with an emphasis on family-friendly magic. Rather than choosing a volunteer or two from the audience, Burton employs groups at a time, including calling up a wave of juveniles and toddlers for one trick.
There are a few single-volunteer gags, one involves Burton producing coin after coin after coin from the ears, nose, pockets, etc. of a youngster. Partly because the bit is so prolonged, Burton's illusionism is at its weakest here, as it becomes quite obvious from where the money is "appearing." Similarly, while Burton convincingly makes a car seem to appear in mid-air, said automobile's "disappearance" - achieved with lighting and scrims - isn't convincing. More impressive is the way he switches places from onstage scaffolding to a mid-auditorium chandelier, which then lowers him into the audience.
A hokey "shaman" number mindlessly jumbles diverse aspects of Native American iconography but is redeemed by an impressive coup de théatre at the end. After that it's on the "Masked Ball" finale, launched with a rapid-fire succession of stunts, including the conjuring up of a flock of ducks. This is a big number and Burton looks so winded by the final swordfight that the swashbuckling is more absurd than dramatic. While the final car fly-off looks more like a triumph of hydraulics than magic, it's also a reminder of how comparatively little Burton relies upon huge mechanical effects under the guise of "illusions" (I'm looking at you, Steve Wyrick).
So you may find Lance Burton's magic act less indelible than advertised. However, it passes 90 minutes very agreeably - if slightly drowsily - and leaves most other Strip magic shows eating Burton's dust.
Lance Burton - Master Magician
Tues.-Sat. at 7 p.m.
Lance Burton Theatre
Monte Carlo Resort & Casino, 3770 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
Tickets are $71.50 & $77.55.