You won’t find any grass growing under Keith Barry’s feet. Ambitious, engaging and a thoroughly pleasant and warm interviewee (as always), the Waterford magician’s appetite for bigger, better and even more mind-blowing shows is greater than ever.
And with good reason, too, I’m happy to state. Thanks to a successful debut in Las Vegas, where he wowed Planet Hollywood audiences last November, Keith will return to Vegas in May for a six-month stint at the same venue.
“Yeah, it went brilliantly,” said the man himself, reflecting on another important step towards the more lucrative times that undoubtedly lie ahead.
“We had 500 people in every night for the show and quite a few celebs dropped in to check it out, which was great. Mel B turned up one night – she’s got a new ‘peep’ show opening in Vegas and I’d met her a couple of weeks previously, so we met up after she came to the show and had a great night. She’s a fun person to be around and very good company.
“Jason Statham was in town for the premiere of his new ‘Transporter’ movie and checked out the show. By the end of the night I had him screaming like a baby, which not a lot of people could say they’ve achieved, I’d reckon!
“And then on another night, although I didn’t get to meet her, Bette Midler popped in, which was totally unexpected. In fact, I didn’t even know she’d been at the show until somebody told me afterwards. To have someone like that coming to my show was a huge compliment.”
The Vegas shows proved incredibly enjoyable for Keith, and he can’t wait for his return to the Planet Hollywood stage.
“It’s great,” he said. “It’s what I’ve been aiming for these past 10 years, day in, day out.
“You know, I love what I do, I love performing in front of an audience and there’s no better place in the world to entertain an audience than Vegas. The live show is the ultimate – TV is very enjoyable, don’t get me wrong, but I definitely get a bigger kick from the stage show.”
The size of the venue is also to Keith’s satisfaction – for now. “It’s pretty intimate, roughly sitting the same crowd as what you’d have in the Forum,” he continued.
“It’s not too big, you don’t need cameras or TV screens to ensure everyone can clearly see what’s going on. You feed off the energy of an audience too, which helps set the mood for a good night’s entertainment and that’s what it’s all about.”
Added Keith: “I’m always looking towards the next step and the next show. Eventually, I aim to be playing to a thousand, fifteen hundred people and I’m developing a show with that size of audience in mind.
“I doubt if I’ll ever be completely satisfied in one sense because I’m on a never ending quest for more work and more ambitious work. That’s not to say the work isn’t satisfying because it’s that and so much more.”
There’s plenty of ambitious work in Keith’s latest show, in which he has stripped down to the stage to the bare minimum, with little more than a flipchart for company during the gig. In fact, elements of the new show are literally heart stopping.
“I saw a documentary about an English woman who, incredibly, woke up five times in a morgue after being declared dead, and it got me thinking about something which I’d considered adding to my routine for quite some time,” he explained.
“I studied the techniques that have been used by guys for many years to slow down their heart rates and it took me about a year to get it to where I wanted it to be and it wasn’t easy. For the first three months, nothing really happened. But, gradually, it started to come down.”
Keith flat-lined during a visit to the Cedars Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles, the hospital of choice for celebs in Hollywood, not that he was there for any headline-generating reason.
“I’d gotten a black eyed bean stuck in my ear after a trick didn’t quite go to plan,” he said, grinning.
“I was having my pulse taken when it happened. There was a bit of panic among the nurses but when I came to, I explained that I’d been working on the technique for a little while, much to their relief.”
What does Keith’s family make of this dangerous introduction to his repertoire? “My wife doesn’t particularly like it – that goes for my mother too – but they both know that this is me, this is who I am and this is what I do for a living.”
It’s certain to prove a fascinating addition to a show that’s always ranks high on the entertainment scale and should ensure there’ll many a bated breath in the Forum next weekend.
Will we be seeing Keith on our television screens any time soon? “I’ve got a new project lined up with the Discovery Channel which is my next TV thing, but as for this side of the Atlantic, there’s nothing brewing in the pot at the moment.
“I’m not too sure why, but RTE doesn’t seem all that keen on doing anything at the moment, which is a bit of a shame because I love to develop something new, but I’m not dwelling on it all that much as the current Irish tour and the return to Vegas is more than occupying my time right now.”
A proud father (“being a nightowl means the late nights haven’t been too tough on me”) and a proud Deiseman (“I love getting back to Waterford and putting on the show”), things are pretty peachy for Keith Barry right now.
But there’s always that bigger show to develop, that bigger venue to secure and that bigger dream to chase. But that’s Keith Barry for you – and you’d expect nothing less.
Keith Barry’s new show runs at the Forum on January 23rd and 24th. For bookings call the Forum Box Office at 051-871133