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Presto! Zubrick Magic Theatre takes the St. Pete stage

Bill DeYoung

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Ryan, left, and Chris Zubrick. All photos provided.

St. Petersburg’s entertainment profile has been raised significantly with the recent materialization of the Zubrick Magic Theatre. Chris and Ryan Zubrick are longtime professional illusionists, and their show (Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights) is as fast-paced, fun and enjoyable as anything else in town, on any theatrical stage.

The word is already out – every performance, thus far, has sold out. There are 90 seats in the theater, at 1211 1st Avenue N.

A little bit Vegas and a little bit theme park, the family-friendly Zubrick show consists of grand illusions (assistant Analise Williams is “sliced into bits,” or made to vanish, only to reappear fully intact) and classic “close-up” magic, what those in the profession refer to as “cards and coins.” There are doves, and swords, and smoke and haze, and things that don’t even seem to be possible.

So how did St. Petersburg land this high-caliber stage show? Well, it wasn’t a magic trick.

Michigan natives Chris and Ryan spent more than a decade, between 2007 and 2020, performing at dinner theaters on the other side of the world, first on the island of Saipan, then on Guam. Two shows a night, six nights a week for 13 years.

Four years ago, the married couple became fathers (Ryan’s sister, in California, was surrogate). “Ryan and I were thinking OK, thirteen years, we’re getting a little bit of island fever here,” Chris says. “Oliver’s getting older, so let’s move home. We wanted to spread our wings.”

They took a six-month sabbatical, bought an RV and drove from one U.S. coast to the other. Looking for a spot. Waiting for inspiration. “We were in Key West, and on our way back up to Michigan, and we passed through St. Pete,” adds Chris. “And it just checked all the boxes for us. It’s an artsy community. There’s plenty of tourism. No Michigan winters. It’s LGBT-friendly. And no magic shows.

“So we said ‘This is it.’ We went back to Guam, did four months and then the pandemic hit.”

They moved their plans forward. Because the Zubrick show on Guam was so enormous, it took a pair of 40-foot shipping containers to ship all their gear to the States. The majority is now in storage in Michigan. St. Pete was always going to be on a smaller scale.

Looking at property, Chris explains, “You don’t just go ‘Well, is there a vacant magic theater for sale?’ We looked at about 13 different retail spaces. The locals called this the old AAA building. It was literally a concrete slab with no interior walls.

“We stepped into this space and immediately began to imagine what it would look like. We had some of Oliver’s sidewalk chalk and we chalked everything out – ‘We could put the stage here, and the lobby here …’ This space worked so well for us.”

After successfully running the gamut of city building and fire codes, the Zubricks built a small stage, put in risers with seats, and Ryan, who has a degree in technical theater, with an emphasis on lighting design, installed and programmed the stage lighting, which includes strobes, lasers and other effects.

“In the evenings,” laughs Ryan, “we’d go home and say ‘What are we doing?’ And then ‘Is anybody going to come? We’re pouring a lot of money and time into this.’”

Indeed, the Zubricks chose to finance the operation themselves, leasing the 2,500-square-foot building, doing the complete buildout and design without any help from investors. “So this,” offers Chris, “is make it or break it. This is our livelihood. We have a family to feed, so we have to make it work.”

The Zubricks are aware that there might be those, amongst the locals or amongst the visiting, who have an issue with their personal relationship. They’re ready for that, should it happen.

“We were out on the island of Guam, but it’s a different community there,” explains Chris. “It’s an island, it’s a melting pot of different nationalities and people. And if you don’t like somebody, where are you going to go? You’re on an island together! Everybody got along so well.

“We obviously chose St. Pete because of its progressive nature. And we talked to some of the locals, saying ‘We don’t know if we want to tell our story, be transparent or not.’ And we were told if you’re going to do it anywhere, do it in St. Pete. You’re in a safe environment.”

They make brief reference to their marriage, and their family, during the performance’s opening remarks. “I think we try hard not to push it down anyone’s throat,” Ryan adds. “We just tell you who we are, and it’s not like it’s a ‘big gay show.’”

Indeed. Williams, who was part of the Zubrick troupe on Guam, is a trained dancer who appears in every other segment of the brisk 70-minute performance. Between the three of them, the show is expertly choreographed and well-paced.

Over time, says Ryan, “the show itself will evolve. We have a large repertoire of illusions and routines that we want to throw into the show, and some holiday routines that we want to do closer to the holidays. And we want to create new stuff, and build new props and routines. Now we have our own space to do that.”

Done up in purples, golds and silvers, the facility itself is stunning.

“We really want to create an experiential event,” Chris concludes. “We want people, from the moment they come in the door, to be surrounded by wonder and magic. And we can really do that in a small space like this.”

Zubrick Magic Theatre website

 

 

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1 Comment

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    Ben Johnston

    August 8, 2021at7:42 pm

    I’m ready to go as soon as I get the details.

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