Nancy Whitehead is a local magician for all seasons
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Danielson - posted Mon., Apr. 15, 2013
It didn't take long for Nancy Whitehead - a.k.a. The Magic of Nancy - to turn her audience's attention to the tricks at hand during a recent outdoor show in Danielson. Temperatures hovered in the low 40s, but Whitehead’s sleight-of-hand and ease with the children piqued their curiosity. Wearing hats, gloves and winter coats, girls and boys and the adults beside them watched the magician’s act. Soon, the cold was the last thing on their minds; figuring out how Whitehead did what she did was much more important.
How did she hold that wand straight when no one else was able to? How did she turn a blue handkerchief and a white handkerchief into two blue-and-white spotted ones? How did she make the same card a person picked out of a deck reappear in a closed box?
These are the questions that tease Whitehead’s audience wherever she goes. The mystery of the tricks draws people in. “Kids will say, 'I know how you did that,' even when they don't,” she said. Figuring out how things disappear and reappear keeps them involved. Whitehead wants her audience to react, and she needs them to have at least some control in the show. But she always manages to keep them guessing.
Whitehead has been performing for kids (and adults) for 29 years. She started as Noodles the Clown, but demand required her to branch out into magic shows for older children. And because some kids are afraid of clowns, she put together an act that didn't require her to change her hair or paint her face. It gave her a chance to put together a show that is more magic act than clown performance. And it gave her a new lease on her entertainment life.
Whitehead is booked pretty solidly these days, whether as Noodles the Clown or as The Magic of Nancy. She couldn't be happier. “I just love making people happy,” Whitehead said. “I love the ‘oohh’s and ‘ahhh’s of a show. I love leaving kids with a good feeling.”
The tricks take practice - and perfect timing. “When I have you look here, one hand might be ditching something,” Whitehead admitted. Some of the tricks are fairly simple, but they still take practice. She works at her craft, using her husband Paul or her co-workers as test subjects. And once a month she joins other magicians at the New London Society of Magicians. The feedback and suggestions she gets from others in the field is invaluable. She can get recommendations on how to hold an item, or how to stand to perform a trick. The Society also has a library of magic tapes its members can borrow to learn new tricks.
Whitehead's basement is full of magic tricks she has yet to try. “I buy stuff all the time,” she said. “I just need downtime to figure out where it will fit in my show.” She needs new material for those shows she does regularly. And she makes sure she brings more magic tricks with her than she can use in the time allotted. Once, a little boy asked her if he could show her his magic tricks. Two of the items in his bag of tricks were similar to ones she planned to use on the audience. “I didn't use them,” she said. “I'm always prepared in case something might fail.”
The call for clowns and magicians is constant for Whitehead. There are birthday parties, grand openings and other special events. “I have to schedule downtime,” she said. She's a repeat performer at Killingly's Frostival, the Rhode Island Seafood Fest in Charlestown, and a Valentine's Day anniversary party at Mohegan Sun, among other events. With summer fast approaching, Whitehead is in the thick of scheduling a slew of festivals, and, of course, learning new tricks to mesmerize her audience.