The bright lights of the Las Vegas strip are the stuff of dreams for entertainers the world over, and Keith Barry proudly counts himself among such dreamers.
Only, and delightedly in his case, it looks like a long-held ambition of his is about to become a top-billing reality.
The Waterford magician, back home last week to promote his forthcoming shows in the Forum (June 27th/28th) and Kilkenny’s Watergate Theatre (July 11th/12th), is understandably excited about the prospect of landing a Vegas residency.
“It’s the ultimate,” said Barry, en route to Kilkenny while speaking to The Munster Express on Friday last. “That’s been the plan, to get to Vegas. And getting a permanent show there is now getting closer and closer, which I’m really, really excited about.”
He continued: “I performed my live show in Vegas in May and we had all the hotel owners in the strip there on the night and the feedback was great…
“Any magician worth his salt wants to perform a live show in Vegas. This is what I’ve been working for and, thankfully, it looks like it’s all about to pay off.”
Negotiations to secure a live show residency look set to see Keith doing what he does best in Las Vegas before the end of the year.
The small matter of another prime-time ITV show will also be done, dusted and in the can later this year, while his ‘Extraordinary’ show shall enthral audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.
For example, he’ll perform his brand of magic in Toronto a week before he hits the Forum boards.
Throw in the fact that he’s also due to become a father in August and it’s fair to say that there are no flies to be found on one of Waterford’s finest 21st century exports.
“I’ve spent six months of every year out of the past five in the States,” he said. You’ve gotta go where the work is and such is the level of demand on Keith’s time that he’s now based in Hollywood.
“A huge amount of my time over there has been spent knocking on doors and a hell of a lot of them stayed closed. But thanks to the break I got on TV through CBS, the ball really started to roll for me and all the hard work has really paid off.
“It’s the biggest television station in the world, with millions and millions of viewers and when it comes to magicians, (David) Copperfield is the only one they’re really bothered with for the last 20 years, so for me to get the break I got on CBS was just huge.”
Getting home to perform in Waterford for the first time since his ‘Brainwashed’ show was a priority for the increasingly busy Barry.
“It’s a completely different show from what a Waterford audience would have seen from me a couple of years ago,” he explained. “And I’ve never performed in Kilkenny before so I’m really looking forward to that too.”
He continued: “One of the show’s set pieces involves big bear traps – three of them in all and it ends with me putting a hand into one of them. I’ve got one of the traps weakened slightly but even that one will hurt a lot if it closes on me!
“Now the audience decide which trap my hand goes into so it will be down to the audience to see if my hand goes or not!”
The show will also see Barry perform a séance, which is set to “spook out people” while the night’s audience participation will also extend to hypnosis.
“Overall, the show is all about giving people a fun night out and I hope that’s what people who come along will come away with,” he said.
“You’ve got to include an element of drama which puts people onto the edge of their seats, which is what magicians have been doing for years, putting their bodies at risk, going right back to the days of Houdini. And it’s great to be part of that tradition of entertaining an audience through magic.”
Thanks to his theatre and TV shows, Keith Barry has become accustomed to rubbing shoulders with A-listers including Colin Farrell and Justin Timberlake and famously driving Pussycat Dolls in sportscars while blindfolded.
But success, he feels, hasn’t gone to his head. “I’ve done my best to take it all in my stride,” he said.
“I’m not in the least bit aloof or anything like that. I don’t buy into my own press. I’ve had the same group of friends at home in Waterford for the past 15 years and I go out for a pint with them when I’m home, as most people do.
“You get the odd belligerent ‘Hey Mister Magician’ comment made the odd time but, overall; most people are grand when I’m out.”
Has he noticed a lot of changes in Waterford given that he no longer frequents these parts as much as he once he did?
“Oh, yeah. This morning I was on the radio and I grew up about 100 yards from where the studios are (in Ardkeen).
“When I was small, living out there, I could look out over the ditch at the back of the garden and see foals being born in the field behind our house.
“But that’s all gone now – you’ve got big shops and a whole range of other buildings out there, and I found that a little sad. That’s progress, I guess.”
With a new television show also in the pipeline, professional life has never been busier for Keith Barry. And with his Las Vegas residency just around the corner, it looks like the Waterford man is firmly set on a path to superstardom.
* Keith Barry plays the Forum, Waterford on June 27th and 28th and Kilkenny’s Watergate Theatre on July 11th and 12th. Tickets cost €27.50 (plus booking fee) and will be on sale at each venue’s box office.