Justin Willman TRICKED OUT kicks off Cirque-A-palooza

Justin Willman TRICKED OUT kicks off Cirque-A-palooza

Created by Stefan Haves | Pasadena Playhouse


Reviewed by Dawn Garcia with commentary from 2 attending Staff Writers

Photography by Staff Photographer, Kei Taguchi


Pasadena Playhouse | 39 S El Molino Ave. | Pasadena, CA 91101

FACEBOOK | Twitter | Cirque-A-Palooza


The Pasadena Playhouse is a place that is nestled close to my heart. Growing up in Los Angeles and living much of my adult life near and around Pasadena where I worked in the film industry at the early age of nineteen, it allowed me the wonderful opportunity to be exposed to a plethora of creativity. Pasadena Playhouse was a landmark I always had the curiosity of seeing and experiencing. Having grown up going to see shows like “Hello Dolly” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (where I later worked on 4 operas) and performing in a few plays as a child, there has always been something quite enthralling about the theatre. That brief intro as a “grownup” at 19 years old changed the way I saw the world. Thus began my love affair with theatre, opera and the performing arts. Needles to say, any chance I get to go to the theatre is one I willingly embrace. The theatre to me is that honest forum where writers can speak without any hesitation, actors can fully commit to the role, and it is a haven that breeds creativity and fosters imagination like no other – AND – if you’re lucky, there will be a show or series that comes along to awaken your inner child, give you the approval to be oblivious to reality, dance in the beautiful wonder of possibility, and revel in the simple and undeniable color of dreams. That very quintessential mode of thought and magic, leads us to Cirque-A-Palooza. Two weeks of circus, canivale, and vaudeville entertainment that will enhance every curious thought you conjure beginning August 2nd and tonight is it’s opening act. This rather temperate July evening, we experienced the kickoff. The opening? The Food Network‘s Host of Cupcake Wars, Justin Willman with a Magic Show he calls – TRICKED OUT! A magic show with bits of comedy, stellar music by DJ Bushwalla, and an enthusiastic crowd (a few that had a BIT too many pre-show cocktails – no names … Gladys!) certainly invited you to sit back and prepare to have some fun. It was undoubtedly a vibrant way to kick off the weeks to come, especially after a rather playful introduction by the show’s creator, Stefan Haves who gives us 4 pointers to remember:


1. This is the Pasadena Playhouse

2. 2 Weeks of the Circus outside in the Carrie Hamilton Theatre

3. 3 Amazing Shows: Justin Willman, Evening of Groucho with Frank Ferrante, and the Magic Castle

4. 4 Perfect Cirque-A-Palooza Shows with a tribute to Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and his ode to vaudeville


This was an entirely new feel this time at the Playhouse. Beginning with DJ Bushwalla, a male DJ & Host for KCRW, pausing the music for a moment asking everyone in the audience to high five those they came with and then asked us to high five the strangers around us. Well, strangers no more! We just high-fived! Thanks Bushwalla. So as we sit beside our newfound friends – the crowd hums louder than I’ve ever heard here before a show, and I survey the gorgeous unmatched architecture of a Playhouse that is abundant in history, rich in story, and poignant in a continual influx of worthy performances. This particular show with Justin Willman has a rather fun pre-curser with Bushwalla and it must be said, it’s pretty spectacular. Full of that curious anticipation, we sit. Some bodies glide to the beats being dropped on stage, some mouths open to talk about the theatre, some kids ask their parents for the tenth time when the show will start (my 6 1/2 year-old included). Soon, it happens. Justin Willman appears … kind of. A man that sounds like Justin scurries out in a black tube, walking, talking, and addressing the one gentleman in the audience who, like most, had lost that wonderful pizazz for the theatre. By pizazz, I simply mean he wore a baseball cap and didn’t dress even remotely formal. That always bothers me. I think one should always dress for the theatre. Regardless. But back to the show – Justin carefully pops out of the black tube wearing a banana suit – but before I give it all away, this will be explained when you go see the show. Or any show of Justin’s TRICKED OUT for that matter.


As a girl fortunate enough to be friends with some truly talented world renown magicians, I have to admit that once the show started, some of the “tricks” were vaguely familiar but Justin made up for that with wit and audience interaction. He even managed to bring in “Cupcake Wars” for a quick segment with two local pastry chefs of Serendipity Cupcakes and Sweet & Savory. All in all it was entertaining and in spite of a few hiccups, it was a fun way to spend a Friday night. It certainly created a longing within to go every single day of Cirque-A-Palooza the day it officially opens in August. For more on Cirque-A-Palooza, please visit the website:



All in all, it was vindicating when everyone here arrived already excited. The lure of a TV Show Host, Justin Willman had fans long before they ever saw him do his magic. A loyal following and a readiness, I look forward to seeing some of Justin‘s original magic as I imagine he’s got quite a bit up his sleeve … I mean other than a ladle.


Here’s what my TEAM had to say:

“Charismatic and quick-witted, Justin Willman’s stage presence is just as engaging as the illusions. He has a knack for comedic timing, blending awe with humor seamlessly, and prying excitement from audience members with repartee and refreshingly simple acts that climb to heights of pure spectacle—yet never feeling overdone.  As a magic skeptic, I was elated, left scratching my head many times. Fellow audience members of all ages screeched in glee as Frisbees, bowling balls, bananas, butter, Siri, lime green shorts and soup ladles all mesmerized us in new, unpredictable ways, adding a fresh new coat on an art form that is considered tired by many, and left me wondering what else he has hidden in his sleeves.” – Cord Montgomery


“Different than most people’s expectation of “magic shows,” Justin Willman’s set emits a young and modern vibe, him being introduced by the gritty guitar riff of The White Stripes’Blue Orchid”, as well as featuring snippets of songs by Vampire Weekend, MGMT, AIR, and Jack White throughout the show. From the get-go, he is wearing a banana costume over a grey suit, pink-checkered button down, and tan leather oxfords. Handsome and charismatic, he charms the audience through witty banter and a variety of tricks that utilize pop culture references such as Paula Deen and Tweeting. He does a good job of interacting with his volunteers. From the relatively simple, to more complex, the show arches well and creates an entertaining experience for the viewer.


Overall, Justin Willman was a smart choice to be the opener for The Pasadena Playhouse’s Cirque-a-Palooza—young and trendy, yet utilizing familiar magic techniques.” – Alexis Murine


More on Cirque-A-Palooza

August 8, 2013 at 9:00 p.m.
August 10, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.
August 10, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.

Since 2007, the Los Angeles-based GRAND GUIGNOLERS, lead by creator/director Debbie McMahon, have presented sold-out original productions combining traditional physical forms in new ways: melodrama, commedia dell’arte, clowning, dance, puppetry, mime, vaudeville and Grand Guignol in a 1920s Parisian cocktail party atmosphere.*

They’ve been called “vivacious and rude entertainment” (LA Weekly) and “insanely entertaining” (LA Stage Times). Critics said the group has “performed with panache, fierce determination and impressive physical dexterity” (LA Times) and “a rollicking, authentic charm” (Backstage).

Tickets to GRAND GUIGNOLERS and Festival Passes for CIRQUE-A-PALOOZA are available at The Pasadena Playhouse box office, online or by calling 626-356-7529.

*Due to violence, this production is not appropriate for small children.


A Cirque Variety Spectacular

August 2, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.
August 3, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.
August 9, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.
August 10, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.


This centerpiece of CIRQUE-A-PALOOZA takes place on The Playhouse Mainstage for select evenings of the CIRQUE-A-PALOOZA festival. Starring artists who have performed in Cirque du Soleil shows from around the world, mixed with local luminaries, comics, magicians, jugglers, acrobats, singers and surprise guests. ROAD TO PALOOZA: A CIRQUE VARIETY SPECTACULAR, created and directed by Stefan Haves, will also feature the swinging Palooza Band and Singers with original music by Emmy-nominated composer Philip Giffin. An immersive, in-your-face cavalcade of comedy and the sublime, the ROAD TO PALOOZA variety shows will surprise you every night with a different lineup of new acts you will not want to miss.

Tickets to ROAD TO PALOOZA and Festival Passes for CIRQUE-A-PALOOZA are available at The Pasadena Playhouse box office, online or by calling 626-356-7529.


Individual Classes Now Offered
August 8, 2013
August 10, 2013


Professional Intensive Classes Available
-Intro to Cirque Skill: Aerial/Advanced Cirque Skill: Aerial (taught by Eric Newton)
-Intro to Cirque Clowns and Characters/Advanced Cirque Clowns and Characters (taught by Stefan Haves)
-Intro to Cirque Voice/Advanced Cirque Voice (taught by Kate Conklin)
-Intro to Cirque Movement/Advanced Cirque Movement (taught by Eric Jeffers and Benedikt Negro)
-Intro to Cirque Hand Balance (taught by Andrey Moraru)
-Intro to Cirque Skill: Hula Hoop/Advanced Cirque Skill: Hula Hoop (taught by Mat Plendl)
-Intro to Cirque Mask/Advanced Cirque Mask (taught by John Achorn)
-Intro to Cirque Skill: Juggling/Advanced Cirque Skill: Juggling (taught by Scot Nery)

Each class is offered for $20. Register for CIRQUE AT THE PLAYHO– — USE at The Pasadena Playhouse box office, online, by calling 626-356-7529, or by emailing Brandon Dobbins at bdobbins@pasadenaplayhouse.org.

Be Part of the Magic AND Raise Money for The Playhouse

Featuring Magicians Jon Armstrong and Steve Valentine
August 4, 2013
Pre-Show at 5:30 p.m.
Mainstage Performance at 7:00 p.m.

Join The Pasadena Playhouse at 5:30 p.m. on August 4 for this “Up Close and Personal” event, benefiting The Playhouse. Jon Armstrong and Steve Valentine, magicians from The Magic Castle®, will dazzle you during a pre-show reception in the Makineni Library. The evening includes the 5:30 p.m. pre-show, as well as the 7:00 p.m. Mainstage performance. The first 25 people to purchase tickets will also receive a VIP pass to The Magic Castle®. This special offer is limited to 50 participants.

This special presentation is offered for $500 per person. ACT NOW before this opportunity DISAPPEARS! Contact Shelby Page at 626-921-1156 or mailto:spage@pasadenaplayhouse.org.