01/06/00 - Illusions of grandeur

When Tony saws Juleen in half, everybody can see the whole thing. She’s lying in a clear, plastic box, not a wooden one, an update of one of the oldest tricks among magicians.

Such effective illusions landed the couple magic’s highest award this year, a Merlin Award from the International Magic Society in the category of International Illusionists of the Year. The Merlins are the Oscars for magicians with a long line of famous winners including David Copperfield, Siegfried and Roy and Joe Labero. 

That line takes an abrupt detour with Tony and Juleen, however. For one thing, they are Australian, a hitherto hinterland for illusionists. For another, their award-winning show has been the resident entertainment at Wonderland Sydney for three years. “We’d love to think we’re setting new standards for theme park entertainment,” Juleen said. “Just because you are in a theme park doesn’t make a show any less quality. The fact we’re in Australia might have been more of a challenge because (the Society) had not heard of us before. But as soon as people walk into that theater, they could be in any theater anywhere.”

Well, not quite. When Wonderland hired the duo, the park renovated its theater to custom-fit Tony and Juleen’s show, with computerized lighting responding to more than 1,000 cues during the 40-minute, 13-illusion program. In terms of quality production, Tony and Juleen have proven via the Merlin Award from the New York-based society that they have a world class act. At the same time, the couple has taken every chance to show off their Australianess, even having a koala accompany them at the October 29 awards ceremony at Wonderland.

Ironically, it was only by joining the ranks of Las Vegas and Broadway mainstays that Tony and Juleen gained appropriate respect among Australians. “A lot of times you have to travel overseas to get recognition in our own country,” Tony said, citing such pop music examples as Savage Garden, Olivia Newton-John and AC/DC. “If you’re playing Sydney all the time, for the people here you’re just a local act. It’s nice to get that international recognition without going overseas.”

The honor, bestowed upon Tony and Juleen by Society World President Remington Scott and the Society’s Australian and New Zealand President Peter Balyck, attracted national coverage. After receiving the award the duo’s week was filled with radio interviews and live television appearances. About 150 VIP guests, including other Australian magicians and Wonderland sponsors, attended the ceremony then stayed for the show, which Tony and Juleen perform 364 days a year (the park is closed on Christmas Day). 

Tony calls their presentation “power illusions. It’s bang, bang, bang, with a contemporary style of music. Most of the illusions don’t take us more than three minutes.” Striving for such a modern feel, they long avoided that saw-the-girl-in-half trick. “But the first question people ask when they meet us is, ‘Do you saw Juleen in half?’ We didn’t want to do the traditional thing, so we searched for a long time to present the sawing in half in a new way.” 

Breaking new ground clearly is the couple’s neatest trick.

Air Jordans