Preview: Welcome to Michael Grandinetti's grand illusion
October 18, 2012 4:00 AM
Illusionist and West Mifflin native Michael Grandinetti will pay a visit to his hometown Saturday.
By Maria Sciullo Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Michael Grandinetti, who creates grand illusions for a living, is planning something extra special for Saturday.
Mr. Grandinetti will reappear ... in Pittsburgh!
"I'm extremely excited about it," said Mr. Grandinetti, a graduate of Duquesne University and West Mifflin High School. "We've been traveling with this show for quite a while and have been building it up for a number of years, but we've never brought the full show and the full crew to Pittsburgh."
The 7:30 p.m. show at the A.J. Palumbo Center is part of the Duquesne Family Weekend festivities.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: A.J. Palumbo Center, Uptown.
Tickets: $15; free for kids 12 and under; free with Duquesne student ID; 412-396-6209.
Starting with a toy magic set when he was a child, Mr. Grandinetti, 35, has spent a lifetime making a spectacle of himself. In high school, he made a girl disappear at halftime of a football game.
At 20, he had his own show at the Byham Theater. A fan of the legendary Doug Henning, Mr. Grandinetti is all about the wonder of the illusion. A while back, he re-created one of Henning's works when he levitated a woman on a beach in Santa Monica, Calif.
He has traversed a spectrum of events, from the White House Easter egg roll to Fortune 500 corporate events.
On television, Mr. Grandinetti has made numerous appearances, including an escape from the jaws of spiky steel teeth on NBC's "World's Most Dangerous Magic."
Unlike the latter-day Merlin, however, this fantasy requires a lot more than a few cries of "abracadabra."
"It's very challenging; magic is one of the most equipment-driven art forms in the world, when you want to do a large production show," he said.
Indeed, more than 15,000 pounds of equipment will be trucked in. Mr. Grandinetti has made Studio City, Calif., his home base for many years now but is currently on an East Coast swing.
In late September, he did a show at halftime during the Carolina Panthers' Thursday night game against the New York Giants at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
"That was one of the highlights of my career," he said. "I've got to tell you, the game was sold out, 70,000 people. Even if you do it once, twice or three times, you never lose that thrill, walking out there.
"I would love to bring that halftime show to Pittsburgh and do it for the Steelers."
Big illusions are his specialty, as are audience-participation bits. One time, he made the Phillie Phanatic float in the air.
"Each year, we try to keep finding new ways to perform and new places to take magic. I really enjoy going out there and being myself and having fun with the audience. I love the audience. I'm a people person and my happiest time is on stage and watching them react to what we work hard at."
Mr. Grandinetti does not use the "royal we," instead referring to his regular staff of 6 to 10 -- several of whom he has known since high school and college -- who help foster and execute his vision. Locally, he employs about 20 more hands to help set up a complicated show involving large-scale elements of dance, lighting and choreography.
"For this show specifically, we are bringing in some illusions we don't normally bring on the show because they are so big and difficult to travel with.
"We have a brand-new piece ... where I attempt to walk through a wall of steel. It's examined by the audience and it's an enormous amount of steel: 7 foot tall and weighing over 200 pounds, it's about 4 feet wide and an inch-and-a-half thick. It takes four guys just to carry it out on stage."
He'll also levitate from a spot at the front of the stage: "So there's no overhang. The audience can see there's nothing lifting me up from the stage. It's under bright lights and the people at wide angles can see there's nothing behind me."
There also will be a shrinking woman bit and, of course, audience participation. Mr. Grandinetti also hinted there will be other surprises, one involving levitation.
Once he gets a break from touring in December, he'll try to pull off a most complicated endeavor: "That's when I'll go into meetings for a couple of projects involving television. I'm very excited -- it's one of the reasons that brought me to L.A. all those years ago."
He has set aside a rare day off to visit friends and relatives Sunday -- "It'll still go by way too fast," he said.
And then, as is his wont, Michael Grandinetti will vanish. Again.