Passing on the wand
For his next trick, Niagara Falls magician Greg Frewin will … get home at a reasonable hour? Relax a bit?
After 18 years of the nightly grind, one of Canada’s most decorated magic men is passing the wand. Sometime over the next month, he will yield the stage to 24-year-old rising star Christian Mascia at his Ellen Avenue theatre.
And while he hesitates using the ‘r’ word — retirement — Frewin says his days of regular performing are winding down. And it took a forced break to convince him.
During one of the COVID-19 lockdowns, he realized being more present at home and less obsessed with work was just what he and his family needed.
“My wife (Alanna) works in the office during the day with the business and I’d be here doing other stuff and shows at night … over the years, as much as it was a dream, we didn’t realize how we just didn’t spend that much time together.”
When lockdowns lifted and the grind started again, Frewin knew something had to give. It wouldn’t be the theatre or his business. It had to be performing.
“I’ve been doing this 30-plus years,” he says. “It’s not the same as it was when I was a kid. The ‘thrive’ for it. I still enjoy it, but it’s not the same waking up every day going ‘Can’t wait to get on stage.’”
Turns out, a young magician he had been mentoring was the answer. Stoney Creek’s Mascia was already working at the theatre and honing his own act, inspired to become a magician after he saw Frewin perform years ago. After seven years, Frewin felt confident giving him the reins. Albeit in stages.
After formally announcing his successor at Thursday’s show, Frewin says he’ll help Mascia with the transition over the next month. Then, it will be Mascia’s show “Wonder” that becomes the Frewin Theatre’s permanent attraction.
It brings an end to a remarkable run by Frewin, who defied doubters when he transformed a former factory on Ellen Avenue into a 700-seat theatre in 2004, using his own money built from years of performing on cruise ships and in Las Vegas. After a rough start, it was soon attracting busloads of tourists and won the Misty Award for Niagara Falls Attraction of the Year.
Frewin’s show, a mix of old school magic and complex illusions, brought him international attention, as did the tigers who were his nightly co-stars.
He has won every major award within the magic community, including the International Grand Champion of Magic. In 2009, he had his own Christmas special on CBC in which he did a complex, dangerous stunt at Table Rock filmed in sub-zero temperatures.
Tempting as it is to keep going, Frewin realized he had nothing left to prove.
“I was 12 when I saw Doug Henning and thought, ‘This is what I want to do.’ But that was almost 43 years ago.
“I still love magic, I just want to take some time now so that when I am back on stage at times, that passion’s still there. I don’t want to ruin it. I don’t mention names, but I have seen some top guys who are so burnt out but are still going. It shows in the show and everything in their life. I don’t want to get to that point.”
With more free time, Frewin says he’ll now do more consulting work and training for young magicians, much like Hamilton magician Doug Bashem helped him as a kid.
“I really enjoy it, because now I can see their energy and their excitement. My ideas and creativity go into that and it’s really a cool thing.”
Keeping the theatre running smoothly will ensure Frewin can pick and choose when he performs. But for now, he’s looking forward to an illusion he couldn’t quite pull off for 18 years — relaxing.
“I think a lot of people were able to discover different things about themselves and their lives during COVID,” he says. “Everything sort of stopped, and now we look around and get a chance to smell the roses.
“As much as (performing) has been great and I wouldn’t change it for a minute, maybe a little more of this would be nice.”