If vacations are meant to create memories, then the Rick Wilcox magic show is worth attending every time you vacation in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.
Wilcox and his wife Suzan are always refreshing their 90-minute, live comedy-magic spectacular. New material every year ensures new memories every visit—and keeps “The Grand Illusion Show” one of the most popular entertainment attractions in one of America’s best family vacation destinations.
The show’s longevity is proof—Rick and Suzan Wilcox have been a big draw in the Dells since the Rick Wilcox Magic Theater opened in 1999. And they’re as popular with audiences as ever, if TripAdvisor is any indication. As of June 2015, the Rick Wilcox magic show was voted the “No. 1 thing to do in Wisconsin Dells.” Remarkably, 96 percent of the reviews rated the act either Excellent or Very Good—and 90 percent called it Excellent.
There’s no illusion about why. Rick Wilcox’s peers consider him one of the world’s true masters of sleight-of-hand. He’s performed magic tricks in public since his mid-teens, and as a full-time pro for almost three decades, yet he still strives to expand his skills and polish his rare combination of craftsmanship and showmanship.
And as his onstage partner, his wife is far more than a garden-variety magician’s assistant. Suzan Wilcox lends her own engaging stage presence and exquisite sense of comedic timing to the act. In no small part because of her, audiences connect with the Wilcoxes. What’s more, besides drawing laughs with scripted comedy bits, the couple has a knack for good-humoredly adlibbing around the occasional obvious snafu or other surprise that makes them even more endearing.
The Wilcoxes create illusions, but their very real chemistry powers crowd-pleasing performances of a caliber not normally expected outside Las Vegas or Branson.
The illusions have gotten bigger and more elaborate over the years. There aren’t too many places you can go to see a full-size helicopter materialize onstage as if out of thin air. Or watch your own child climb out of the audience to go time traveling with the star of the show. Yet Wilcox never abandons the sleight-of-hand tricks involving playing cards, doves and other props that first took him to the top of his profession.
How Rick Wilcox Got Started
Wilcox learned those tricks as a boy and began performing them in his Wisconsin hometown. He continued performing on the side as a young adult after taking a sales job, and his demand as a magician grew. Soon he was performing at events coast to coast. He was good at sales but loved magic—so when encroaching conflicts forced him to choose between the two in 1988, there really was no choice.
As he accumulated props for his act, Wilcox decided to buy a new house with lots of storage space. He met with a real-estate agent. Her name was Suzan.
When he asked to marry her, Suzan said yes. When he then asked her to appear with him on stage, she said, um, no thanks—at least at first. She was fine with helping him manage his act. But he saw their potential together, so he kept asking. His patience finally won out. (Considering Rick once practiced shuffling a deck in a special way 10,000 times to master a trick, Suzan probably never had a chance.)
They first shared a stage in 1996. Since 1999, they’ve shared their own stage.
When the Wilcoxes came across an abandoned and neglected former home to two failed businesses, they saw the opportunity to end their days as a purely traveling act. The old building was in forlorn condition but perfect location—along a prime stretch of tourist turf, close to successful established attractions like the Original Wisconsin Ducks® and the roller coaster park that today stands as Mount Olympus Water and Theme Park.
The Wilcoxes knew their act would draw. All it needed was a permanent home. So they bought and restored the old barn, installing 5,500 seats.
Today the Rick Wilcox Magic Theater houses the best magic-comedy act in Wisconsin Dells. Doves and coins may disappear there—even audience volunteers.
But not the show’s popularity.
Photo Credit: Rick Wilcox Magic Show