Glorious Experience

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Vicki and Taylor Michaels will perform at Silver Coast Winery on September 14th. Courtesy photo

by Chelsea Blahut

The Taylor Michaels Show
Saturday, September 14th
Silver Coast Winery
6680 Barbeque Rd., Ocean Isle Beach
Doors: 5:30 p.m. • Dinner: 6 p.m.
Show to follow dinner
$26/person, includes dinner
Pre-purchase by September 6th
(910) 287-2800
www.silvercoastwinery.com
www.thetaylormichaelsshow.com

When Taylor and Vicki Michaels would scour miles of showrooms of the Las Vegas strip from 10 in the morning to 5 in the evening 18 years ago, they were motivated by one thing: the intimacy between performer and audience. “Now you have big, monster productions… It’s so over the top,” says Taylor, sitting comfortably next to his wife, Vicki, in their recording studio of their Goldsboro home. “It was more intimate then, and you had a stronger connection. They had smaller showrooms. Most of that is gone now.”

When the Taylors moved to Las Vegas from Southern California, their native home, they had “just missed the very tail end of the cool side of Vegas,” according to Vicki, a subtle yet vivacious woman with medium-length jet black hair framing her face that always beams with a sweet smile.

“It’s cool now. But it has a different kind of feel,” recalls Taylor, a man sporting a bold mustache with a personality to match, seemingly evened out by Vicki’s restraint. “If you look at the Rat Pack for instance, those were just a bunch of guys having fun on stage.”

As homage to this era, the couple maintains this aspect of intimacy and excitement in The Taylor Michaels Show, which once featured both of their names in the title, but had to omit Vicki’s because of the confusion from the audience. “People were perplexed because she didn’t sing,” Taylor concedes. “Once we took it away, there weren’t any problems. But the whole show is a fifty-fifty effort.”

A natural performer, Taylor plays the role of front man, while also lending his talents in playing guitar and ukulele. Vicki is the music director, while also performing on stage by playing keyboard and ukulele, and comes to the front when playing the part of “magician’s assistant.”

The Michaels produce all of their music, with magic in mind when composing it. By doing this, they are able to carry the music upwards and the magic happens naturally out of it. According to Vicki, they “really make an effort to make the music organic in the show” by making the music “ooze” out of the song. It’s difficult to explain, and certainly not an easy task to achieve, but everything is carefully selected so that it all flows.

“You never see two things that aren’t supposed to go together that are together,” says Taylor.

Although they try to maintain a natural flow of pieces, every bit of the show is choreographed and rehearsed. The result is a paradoxical nature of precision and spontaneity between the different acts, consisting of comedy, magic, music and audience interaction. Every thought is premeditated, even when it comes to clothing. They both change throughout the show, sporting vintage clothing trends such as cravats, which actually hail from the early 1800s. There’s even a part where the Michaels do a medley from “Phantom of the Opera,” where Taylor sports the long dark robe and famous ghost-like mask. “It’s not a play, because most of it appears pretty off the cuff,” confesses Taylor. “We do a weird enough variety for them to not know what’s gonna happen next.”

Vicki and Taylor Michaels. Courtesy photo

Vicki and Taylor Michaels. Courtesy photo

In the past, this was a source of frustration for Taylor, when he would play for audiences and struggle to hold their attention. For instance, playing acoustic guitar at a bar—Taylor has done that before, and after a couple of songs he’s ready to go, because it wasn’t entertaining for either party. “You can be up there and be really cool and do the latest songs and play hot riffs on your guitar and look really bitchin’,” he says, “We’re not trying to look bitchin’—we’re trying to entertain people and make sure they have fun.”

For their act, they create an environment that is solely focused on them—by cueing the lighting so it draws the audience’s eye to them. As an audience member, you need to focus where the entertainment is, Taylor presses. They even don’t allow people to eat while they perform because then they will not be engaged, and the show is highly audience-interactive. It seems impossible not to be, though, because Taylor is a mobile performer, going out into the audience. If Taylor sees that you are not paying attention, he’ll even go as far as to sit on an audience member’s lap. “Don’t print that!” jokes Vicki, embarrassed by Taylor’s candidness. “Our show is very cheeky and kitschy.”

For Taylor, he’s more comfortable on stage than he is in a group setting, such as a party. When you go to his show, you are in his area, and as an audience member, “you are going to work with him.”

“If you know where you’re going then that’s when you can fly off the cuff,” Vicki says. “When we go off script, if you would call it that, it’s very easy to get back on track and be playful with the audience as well, because we know what our marks are.”

Self-awareness and confidence shine true for the happy performers, who are comfortable with both their carefully contrived act and, most importantly, themselves. “I think the hardest thing for the entertainer to do is figure out who they are. For some years I wanted to be a rocker… But I just didn’t have that personality,” Taylor muses. “And once you figure out who you are and you relax and let it happen, your work is genuine. We know that.”

“That’s a strength for us,” Vicki iterates. “It’s easy for us to promote our show and ourselves because we’re 100 percent sold to it. It’s our love for performing, and our ability to talk about it is pretty genuine.”

“The most major thing that comes off of our stage is love,” Taylor emphasizes, half-heartedly joking and reaffirming his matrimony all at once.

“Can you tell that we love each other?” Vicki giggles, shooting Taylor a gaze of pure adoration only a couple truly in love could do. “We love each other, we love what we do. And that’s our favorite place to be. So that really comes across to the audience.”

With nearly 30 years of experience, the Michaels seem to be performers by nature, but that was not the case for Vicki. Before she met Michael, she had only played the flute, and never in front of a large audience. It took her a long time to get comfortable with this, but Michael helped her ease into it by teaching her bass, the easiest to learn, and then bumped her up to playing the keyboard and ukulele, and then gradually she became a part of the stage. Although Taylor does all of the front work, he swears that when she comes forward, she handles her own just fine.

Taylor also “brought her into the magic” 15 years ago, starting out with close-up magic at private parties and restaurants, and then finally putting together their grand illusion stage show. Once she took the part of being the magician’s assistant, it was a “whole different ball game.” Vicki took on a non-conventional part, having her own dialogue, and being just as much of a star as Taylor. “When you’re on stage you have to act… and when the part became me entertaining, it became very fun,” Vicki reveals.

The Michaels moved to Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 2003 from Las Vegas. They admit while performing on the West Coast versus the East is very different, they’ve received over-the-top praise. This totally surpassed their expectations, especially when they incorporated the magic portion into their show, since they’ve noticed that people within the region have not been as exposed to their kind of entertainment as much as people on the West Coast have.

The magic the Michaels perform takes a lot of practice and has to be well-rehearsed, in order to attain the “got ya” effect. This, in the magic world, is when the act practices to look like their fumbling throughout their performance, but then ultimately fools the audience by pulling off the trick.

Taylor will sometimes put cameras in the audience for feedback. Once, when Taylor was  playing back a tape recorded one month earlier that showed one of these very moves, he heard a male audience member scoff at the Michaels, dubbing them as “amateur.” “This was great,” Michael says, “because the trick was designed for that… David Copperfield does the same thing. But when Vicki hit the mark, I heard the onlooker laughing and say, ‘They got us, didn’t they?’”

“With magic, you’re almost always lying to the audience—you have to describe what they see you do, but you may not be doing what they think they see,” Michael explains. Both performers stress acts must be rehearsed, proving this to be the more professional side of the industry. Although music and magic differ—making the process of arranging the act that more much more difficult—both are incredibly ornate art forms.

At this explanation from Taylor, Vicki perks up and nudges him, “Oh! Tell her your comparison, that’s a really good one.” Taylor pauses, collecting himself in the true fashion of a performer about to deliver a perfectly composed monologue: “Magic done well brings out the sense of wonder in people, it brings out the sense of curiosity. But music touches the heart… I think that’s why it works, because those are both glorious experiences.”

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