Illusionist Chloé Crawford Won't Get Mad If You Assume She's the Assistant…
…Because for her next trick: subverting expectations.
"I'm probably the first solo female magician on Broadway, which is super exciting," says Chloé Crawford, now onstage at the Marquis Theatre as one of the five performers in The Illusionists — Magic of the Holidays.
For Crawford, looking back at her path to the Great White Way seems like an illusion itself: "It feels like it's been a really long journey, but it's also short in length of time."
Having left her home in Portsmouth, England, to tour as a dancer at the age of 16, Crawford says the outlets for her childhood passion for magic were limited to watching magic and magic-reveal shows ("Which every magician hated but I loved because I wanted to know how everything was done," she says). That all changed when she found herself living in the magic-saturated world of Las Vegas, where she started developing tricks of her own.
"It kind of all fell into place," recalls Crawford, "I put out some videos online and Britain's Got Talent contacted me to go home and do the show, and I thought, "OK, sure, why not? I don't know what's going to happen because this is all very new. But I did and I'm so glad I did."
From there, Crawford went to work for and then with famed magician Criss Angel before reaching out to the producer of The Illusionists. "The producer told me, 'We're doing Broadway. What do you want to do?'" says Crawford. "And I'm like, 'I don't know if you're going to like my answer, but I'm going to tell you what I really want to do' — and he was totally open to my geek magic."
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
What are you doing in the show?
My act is kind of creepy, gross, shocking. I do a lot of geek magic. It's kind of hard to describe unless you've seen it. It's a lot smaller, close-up. It's shock factor. It's probably as close as you can get to real magic because there is no illusion to it. I get a person up from the audience, and it's amazing to see their face because they're living it with me. I do the things I do to disgust people in a fun way. It couldn't be more different to what you would expect me to do, which I love. I love shocking people. I love doing the unexpected.
How did you find yourself in this vein of magic?
I moved to Vegas in 2012, and there were so many magicians in Vegas but none were women. That intrigued me more than anything. So I thought, "Let me try this, let me see, let me learn some things."
And geek magic is what drew me in. I don't know exactly why. It's no different to when you're little and you think, "When I grow up I want to be a doctor or a fireman."
Do you think you would have come to magic sooner if you had had female role models?
Definitely. I never saw any women doing magic on TV when I was a little girl. I never got given a magic kit. I don't have that typical story that a lot of magicians have. And it's been hard not having a specific person to look up to. It's taken a little bit longer to find myself, but maybe that's a good thing. I haven't copied anyone; I haven't gone, "I'm going to be just like them."
It's nice to be paving the way a little bit for other women in the field, because there are quite a few of us out there. You just don't really know of us because we're still trying to break through.
What has been the hardest barrier to break down?
For me, it was tough in the beginning just because when I go out places people think, "Oh so you're the assistant." I'm like, "Nooooo, I don't do the pushing around of tables and boxes, that's not my deal." So that was kind of hard at first, but people don't know, and you have to just tell them.
There was a lot of discussion for this show of what I should wear onstage. I wanted to wear a dress and heels…I wanted to come out and look like what I would want to see as a little girl. And I think it just adds to my character in the show — with the magic that I'm doing it's such a contrast.
On Britain's Got Talent I was in this awful tuxedo and a top hat, and I did a quick change into ripped jeans and a shredded-up tank. The whole point with to show the audience that I'm not going to be traditional and tell them, "We're gonna do something different, we're going to do something big." I do love going in it and have people underestimating me and me thinking, "Oh, you have no idea what's about to happen."