Interview with Chris Cox – theatretalktome.com

Source: https://talktheatretome.com/2020/02/26/interview-with-chris-cox-of-the-illusionists-live-from-broadway/

You know what’s great about interviewing “The Mentalist” Chris Cox from THE ILLUSIONISTS-LIVE FROM BROADWAY? As a mind reader, it makes him an incredibly easy interview since he already knows what is going to be asked!

Chris Cox and THE ILLUSIONISTS – LIVE FROM BROADWAY
Photo credit: Claudia James

Chris Cox is a part of a world-renowned THE ILLUSIONISTS – LIVE FROM BROADWAY tour, which is playing at Broadway San Diego from February 28th – March 1st and filled with some of the best magicians working. But don’t let that fool you, his entry into magic is one that thousands of children around the world are familiar with.

“I was at home in England and was ten years old and I got a letter that was delivered by an Owl. Seven years later, I graduated from Hogwarts as a mind reader. Hufflepuff and proud.”

Besides an origin story that features an avian postal carrier and an education set in a castle that continually tries to kill the students (moving staircases are a health hazard Dumbledore!) Cox says that his love for theatre and magic really developed simultaneously.

“When I was six years old I got a magic kit and at Christmas, in Britain, we have this tradition of pantomime. Which is this family show and has lots of interaction. I remember my parents and grandparents taking me to the theatre as a young child and I always loved it and I always loved magic. They were always intrinsically combined.

I’m lucky enough to have fulfilled my dreams as a kid of wanting to perform on the greatest stages in the world by doing it with magic. Which I never thought possible, and it’s incredible that a show like THE ILLUSIONISTS that tours the world means I can play London’s West end, Sydney Opera House, Broadway, San Diego, and all these big cities with no real talent.”

Except, that last part about having on talent isn’t quite true. After all, you don’t get to perform on this tour without being exceptional. So what exactly is the magic of mentalism?

“I am a mind reader. But I am a mind reader who can’t read minds, so I am honest about the fact that no one can read minds. My job is to make it fun, stupid, silly, mainly hilarious and as entertaining as it can be to read your mind without really being able to read your mind- but if I could I’d be saying that I can’t because it would make it easier for me.”

Peering into your mind…sort of
Photo credit: https://www.magiccox.com

Working and collaborating with amazing magicians also means always Cox is always refining his craft and performance style.

“The joy of a show like THE ILLUSIONISTS is that I am working with some of the greatest minds of magic, and every night we give each other notes and are constantly making our act better. It’s a real joy. I was watching a video from 3 years ago and these tiny incremental changes all add up to it being different and something special.

Mentalism is a popular skill for television and film characters including shows including the aptly named “The Mentalist”, and everyone’s favorite “high functioning sociopath” Sherlock so what does a professional mentalist think of his fictional counterparts?

“I like it because it does the shorthand for me and people know what I am doing with having to overly explain it. Also, I can play against those expectations and conventions. My whole thing is to make it fast, funny, and as fun as possible. When people think it’s mysterious and dark and then to see someone like me who is geeky, and jovial, it’s fun to play with that.”

Chris Cox on stage Photo Credit: Claudia James

Being able to be quick, funny, and accurate at reading people’s minds means also having to keep up with current events all over the world, which is no easy feat.

“I need to constantly consume it so I can know what people are thinking about. Like when I’m in America I need to know what’s going on. There are times where people are thinking of things and I have no idea. If it’s sports and it’s not Quidditch I have no idea.”

The Magic of THE ILLUSIONIST is not the only stage magic Cox is involved with, he is also a collaborator on the magic seen in HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD. So what is it like teaching muggles about magic?

“It’s integral to the story and I feel very privileged to be a part of that team and part of that world. To work with that team and develop those actors who have never done magic and create magic for them and make them realize how important it is to the story and do a show where the magic is never tricks.”

Performing in American theatres also helps keep his love of theatre alive and well on tour, especially backstage.

“What I love in American theatres are all the tags people do on the walls backstage, I adore that. I look around to see if I can see the names of friends or people I’ve seen in shows. Theatre is in my blood and I enjoy seeing these pictures for different shows and I then sing those songs for the day for soundcheck.”

He then started singing “Guns and Ships” from HAMILTON because, mind reader.

Final question, which is obviously the most important – as a magician, what is his stance on capes?

“I love capes. I wish I had the style to rock a cape. One of my favorite memories while working on Harry Potter in tech is it’s an old theatre so they have air cooling to keep it cold for when the audience arrives and it was freezing. There were times in tech I would be sitting in the audience in cloaks from wardrobe and just swishing and walking around in cloaks – it was the greatest day ever.”

Follow the magical adventures of Chris Cox on tour at Instagram @magiccox or twitter @bigcox

See Chris Cox and THE ILLUSIONISTS -LIVE FROM BROADWAY at Broadway San Diego on February 28th – March 1st. For ticket and showtime information go to www.broadwaysd.com

Chris Cox’s Broadway Debut

By Kathy Henderson for Broadway Direct – https://broadwaydirect.com/chris-cox-preps-for-a-magical-broadway-debut-in-the-illusionists/ 

Chris Cox looks like your friendly next-door neighbor, with boyishly messy hair, oversized eyeglasses, and a wardrobe of colorful suspenders. But don’t underestimate this self-described “big geek”: Cox is one of the most celebrated magicians in the world, and a headliner in the forthcoming six-week Broadway engagement of The Illusionists: Magic of the Holidays. Billed as “The Mentalist,” he will show off his astonishing mind-reading skills at the Neil Simon Theatre from November 29 to January 2, 2020.

Since its debut at Australia’s Sydney Opera House in 2012, The Illusionists has become an international hit, including record-breaking engagements on Broadway. The show, says Cox, “takes the heart of what makes magic exciting and creates something fresh and new and relevant. It’s all about that human connection and making impossible things seem possible.”

To be clear, Cox himself doesn’t claim to be clairvoyant. “I often say that I’m a mind reader who can’t read minds,” he says, speaking with Broadway Direct from London, where The Illusionists recently wrapped up a West End run. And yet Cox manages to amaze audience members by revealing detailed tidbits about their lives and personalities, from favorite foods and favorite bands to names and birthdays. His skill as a magician and impeccable comic timing have impressed celebrity fans including comedian Ricky Gervais, who calls the 35-year-old magician “brilliant; he’ll blow your mind.”

Cox began playing around with magic as a kid in Bristol, England, where he first took the stage at the Hippodrome at age 11 in the chorus of a musical. After studying psychology, he began using his powers of deduction as a magician, making his professional debut at 20 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. “The joy of magic is to create a world where you feel like a kid again,” he says. “My job is to make you laugh — and to question how the hell I know information about you that there is no way I should be able to know. I don’t work with big props and illusions; I work with people’s thoughts and emotions. There’s a gray area between something being a trick and being based in reality, but my goal is to make the show as entertaining as possible.”

The young star’s mischievous energy and embrace of silliness sets him apart from other mind-readers. “People often find mind-reading scary or a little bit sinister,” notes Cox, “but for me, it’s about creating excitement and fun, celebrating the human mind and what we can do with it. I never want an audience member to feel concerned about participating; I want them to have the most memorable experience possible. It’s always a pleasure to meet people after the show who loved taking part, and others who come up and say, ‘I wish you had picked me.’”

In addition to mind-reading, The Illusionists brings together the greatest practitioners of daredevil stunts, card manipulation, cutting-edge illusions, sleight-of-hand tricks, and teleportation. “I remember seeing the show as a young adult and thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be incredible to be part of this?’” Cox says. “It’s a phenomenal production, with huge screens, sets, and lighting. I sit at the side of the stage at most shows because it’s a so much fun to watch everyone else’s act. I find a place where I can see the audience’s faces light up with amazement.”

Cox has traveled the world with The Illusionists, including a three-month run in South Africa, three months in Reno, Nevada, and a sold-out run at Sydney Opera House. Meanwhile, he continues to appear solo on UK stages and in BBC specials and awards shows and assisted in creating magic and illusions for the West End production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. “I’m never happier than when I’m standing in a theater,” says Cox, who even got married on stage back home at the Bristol Hippodrome. Now he’s headed to Broadway for the holiday season with his wife, a psychologist who offers ideas for his act, their two-year-old daughter, and a newborn due in early November.

“As a child who grew up watching Home Alone 2, I can’t believe we’re going to be in New York over Christmas,” Cox says with typical enthusiasm. “I look forward to taking my daughter to see Santa and just enjoying being together as a family when I’m not working.” His Great White Way debut comes after years on the other side of the Broadway footlights. “My wife and I spent way too much money flying over to see Hamilton when it first opened,” he recalls with a laugh, “so playing Broadway is genuinely a dream come true.”

As his own family grows, Cox is especially happy to be part of a spectacular production that appeals to theatergoers of all ages. “I love the idea that there are kids out there who might be seeing their first Broadway show, and that we will be part of their holiday memories,” he says. “Some might even be inspired to end up on stage themselves.”