Helder Guimarães isn't a headlining name most audiences would recognize, but in the world of magic, this 31-year-old is well on his way to becoming a legend. The Portuguese-born Guimarães was awarded the title of Parlour Magician of the Year by the Academy of Magical Arts for three years running, World Champion of Card Magic by the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques, and the Ascanio Prize by Sociedade Española de Ilusionismo. He is the only person in history to have all of these major awards.
As cocreator and costar (with Derek DelGaudio) of Nothing to Hide at Signature Center, Guimarães is performing his slight of hand for American audiences in his first off-Broadway show. The production, directed by fellow magician Neil Patrick Harris, blends card tricks with eye-popping illusions to the delight of audiences of all ages. TheaterMania chatted with Guimarães about the origin of Nothing to Hide, his magical background, and his choice of the versatile NPH is one of the best directors out there.
How would you describe your show, Nothing to Hide?
It's an exploration of magic and the impossible (and mystery, and the theatricality of magic). I believe the show allows people to leave the theater thinking about the world as a more magical place.
When did you start doing magic?
I started when I was four because my dad did magic as a hobby. When I was really young, I asked, "Can you teach me?" I kept doing it. I kept wanting to see shows and meet other magicians. I grew up in this strange magic world attending gatherings of magicians and secret meetings and festivals. There are competitions between magicians — like music awards. [I started] competing in some of those things and won some and that was it.
Tell me about the origin of Nothing to Hide.
The show was a very happy accident. I was moving from Portugal to Los Angeles. Derek was supposed to do a show where [he] was going to do half and another magician was to do half. The other magician dropped out and Derek said, "Do you want to do the other half?" We had a few days before the gig and we started thinking it would be interesting if we could do one thing together…an easy way of combining our knowledge and our ways of seeing magic. And then it magically evolved. We were gonna do this for fun and two days at the Magic Castle [in Los Angeles], and from the moment we did it, it caught fire and the line went around the block. Magicians and laymen coming out of the first performance were running and telling people, "You have to see this."
When did Neil Patrick Harris get involved?
The show at that time was very short, a half hour long. Neil Patrick Harris, he's the president of Magic Castle. He was like, "This is amazing. You guys have to come back here." That's when he invited the artistic director of the Geffen Playhouse to see the show. After the show, [the artistic director] said, "When can you guys do a longer version of this in our theater?" Neil came on board [to help] translate the language of this small magic show from a small venue to an audience of one hundred seats.
What does Neil bring to the parlor table?
Neil is probably the most talented person I've ever worked with. He is unbelievably precise and a really good listener. Because the performers of this show are the creators, there is kind of a fine line that the director needs to walk, which is, "What do you guys want to say here in this specific moment? I will help you get there." It was a dialogue. Neil, because of his background in theater, acting, and magic, understands that. He's always very attentive to [it].
Do you have a favorite trick to perform?
That's really hard, to be honest with you. I think about the show as a whole. Every piece is my favorite in different aspects. Maybe one piece is more fun to do. Some pieces are more magical to perform. I like to see the audience react.
Watch Helder blow people's minds in the video below: