The buzz spread rapidly through the crowd at the baby luau. "The magician is here! The magician is here!" Sure enough, an intriguing fellow in a brown fedora carrying a bulky leather bag had already captured the attention of the younger party guests.
As they circled around him, the magician pointed to one small girl's shoes, and asked, "Are those the new shoes that squeak?" Smiling, she shook her head, but suddenly, "squeak! squeak!" her shoes began to squeak. The kids were amazed until a plastic squeaker fell out of the magician's hand. The trick was revealed! But wait - on closer look, the fallen squeaker didn't work and yet her shoes continued to squeak. It could only be magic!
Brenton Keith and his Bag 'O Tricks has been a familiar figure on Maui for over 10 years, since the days when he used to wow the audience at Warren & Annabelle's six nights a week. The popular club is where Keith says he really "became a showman," learning everything from how to deal with hecklers to how to finesse his comedy flow.
'A lot of kids get a magic kit, they play with it for a while, and then they put it down. I’m one of the kids who just never stopped.'
These days, Keith is busy with new adventures. In the mornings, he brings a magical interlude to visitors at Kaanapali Beach Club's island orientation; and in the evenings, he charms guests aboard the "Spirit of Lahaina" dinner cruise ("Could you ask for a more beautiful stage than the sunset?"). He also entertains at private parties and baby luau - a lot of baby luau.
"When I first moved here (from California), I had no idea such a big part of my income would be to perform for these family audiences; not just kids, but adults and teenagers too," Keith says. "I'm just thrilled to add to their already magical event."
In fact, Keith's philosophy is all about giving back just a bit of the magic that he experiences every day. "Hawaii is such an incredibly magical place," he says. " People say, 'Oh, you should be in Las Vegas!' but in Vegas, I'd be blending in with about 6,000 other professional magicians. Here, I'm one of six."
In such an intimate setting, Maui magicians do their best not to overlap with each other and perform the same tricks. Keith says he likes to read Magic magazine for the latest ideas and is always thinking of new ingredients for his Bag 'O Tricks. Of course, what works in New York City might not work in Lahaina - for one thing, you've got the tradewinds to contend with!
But don't bother asking Keith to reveal his secrets. "If people ask me how it's done, I just say, 'Trust me, you don't want to know!' "
The only person who might know some of Keith's tricks is his girlfriend, bodypainter Rachel Deboer. She's usually the test audience before Keith takes his magic "to the real world." The two of them also collaborate on a side venture called the B In R Show, which features creative endeavors like black-light puppetry and vanishing people.
For Keith, magic is a childhood dream that has become his everyday reality - and it never gets old.
"A lot of kids get a magic kit, they play with it for a while, and then they put it down," Keith says. "I'm one of the kids who just never stopped."
Brenton Keith and his Bag 'O Tricks will give two free public performances at the Maui Summer Festival at The Shops at 505 Front Street in Lahaina from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday and again next Sunday, Aug. 23.
For more information about Keith, visit www.magicbrent.com.
Another magical event is coming to Maui at the end of the month: Slava's Snowshow returns to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center for the first time since 2002. It should be an experience to remember, as tiny bits of paper create a blinding snowstorm inside the Castle Theater. Created by one of the world's most famous clowns, Slava Pulonin, the Snowshow combines theatrical clowning and slapstick with poignancy and artistry. Unusual props include water, dry ice, cobwebs, bubbles and paper, and Slava draws the audience into the action as well. Due to the conditions, the show is not recommended for children under age 8, and children under age 2 are not permitted. There will be three performances: at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28; and at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29. Tickets range from $12 to $57. Applicable fees are added to tickets for all MACC shows, available at the MACC box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.