In the 11 months since the Zubrick Magic Theatre’s doors first opened, there have been a number of changes, many of them subtle and all of them positive.
Chris and Ryan Zubrick have continually updated their award-winning act, for a number of good reasons, most particularly because they’ve had so many return visitors. Although a strong percentage of customers visit the magic theater from out-of-town, the Zubricks have developed a local following that just can’t get enough of their high-tech illusions, close-up magic and slick showmanship. So they’re always adding new stuff to keep it fresh.
Also new to the Zubrick stage is Marlana LaCivita, a Tampa-based dancer and choreographer. She joined the show less than a month ago as the Zubricks’ stage assistant, the “magic girl,” an essential part of the performance.
A native of Ohio, LaCivita is a fulltime Pilates instructor – and a longtime professional performer who spent eight years dancing and choreographing at Busch Gardens Tampa.
She was what’s known in theater parlance as a swing, meaning she needed to know every step in every one of the park’s myriad shows, to perform at a moment’s notice.
“I was lucky to be a swing,” she says. “You bounce back and forth. A swing is a good thing to be. It keeps you fresh. It keeps you on your toes.”
LaCivita replaced Analise Williams, who’d been with the Zubrick team since its pre-St. Pete days on the island of Guam, where she performed with Chris and Ryan six nights a week for the better part of a decade.
Williams has moved to Las Vegas to continue her dancing career.
“A friend recommended me to Chris and Ryan,” says LaCivita. “I knew of them through friends that had worked for them in Guam.”
Despite her extensive dancing career – tap is her specialty – when it came to the intricacies of stage magic, LaCivita had a learning curve.
“For me,” she explains, “the biggest difference is, in the dance world if you mess up you can just kind of flow through it. Or just re-choreograph the moment! You can adjust pretty easily.
“Here in the magic world, you have to do everything the same, every time. Like however you get into a trick, you have to get into it the same way every single time. That was probably the biggest challenge for me, not being able to evolve with how it was going. It’s set in stone, and the minute you do it differently everything else can just kind of domino effect.”
Williams worked with LaCivita during the transition.
Explains Chris Zubrick: “We would rehearse little bit during the day, and she would watch the show from the wings backstage. She’d have her notebook out as she followed along with what Analise was doing. And then she’d watch from front of house, from the audience perspective.
“And then we threw her in! And she did great.”
At Busch Gardens (“theme park world,” LaCivita calls it), there were magicians – but nothing like the Zubricks’ immersive presentation. “I had maybe danced as a backup dancer in the show, but not specifically in the tricks. There are things you start to figure out when you do a show over and over.
“What they do, Chris and Ryan, is so much practice, so much perfectionism. They’re just remarkable magicians. They don’t need me …”
Counters Zubrick: “Don’t let her kid you. She’s the one that really does the magic behind the scenes. We just are the face and we wave our arms around, but Marlana works very hard – getting cut into nine pieces, and squished down to one foot tall. She’s tremendous.”
LaCivita runs her own charity, BEinfinite, producing dance shows to benefit cancer patients and survivors within the entertainment industry.
“I’m actually a cancer survivor,” she explains, “so performing is not just something I do. Any time I walk onstage, it’s something that helps heal me, mentally and physically. And even working with them for just a couple of weeks, I already feel like they’re my family.
“Even if there’s one person I connect with, that’s really important for me. I think that helps people kinda understand that’s why I do what I do.
“It’s not so much ‘oh, I’m a magic assistant and a dancer,’ it’s really what I can give back to the community.”