West Mifflin native prepared to take his magic act to stage, small screen
Illusionist Michael Grandinetti has come a long way in perfecting the art of magic since his days of performing at Kennywood Park and at other local events in his hometown of West Mifflin.
“I like to think big and set big goals,” Grandinetti said. “I always want to push past what other people my age are doing in the magic industry.”
This summer, Grandinetti will be taking to the big stage and the small screen in hopes of amazing audiences with his original illusions.
He's one of the stars of the new CW television series “Masters of Illusion,” which premieres at 8 p.m. Aug. 1.
The show features magic from around the world, including illusions where Grandinetti levitates 10 feet in the air in front of the stage and, later, disappears from a suspended platform 20 feet in the air and reappears elsewhere.
“We tried to use TV to give the audience a new view of the magic — 360 degrees, up close and personal.”
Grandinetti performed his favorite original illusion called “Walking Through Steel” in front of a live audience of 300 for the taping of the series. In this illusion, he melts his body through a 1-inch thick, 200-pound block of steel. Former “American Idol” contestant Ace Young, who was in the audience for the taping, came on stage and inspected the hunk of steel to make sure it was the real deal.
“The TV series was filmed in front of a live audience so that it had the feel of a real show. All the responses you see from the audience are genuine and sincere,” Grandinetti said. “I love live audiences. You can feel the energy moving through the crowd, and it charges you up.”
Starting June 19, he will be appearing nightly at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno for a stage show called “Masters of Magic.”
“The Reno show allows for bigger pieces of magic that aren't easily transported from place to place. They can be set up and live there for a while,” Grandinetti said. “I open this show by making a 500-pound Harley Davidson motorcycle appear. That's not something you can do everywhere.”
In addition to these two new projects, Grandinetti has performed at many other venues in the United States. He has done seven stadium shows, including performing in the round for 70,000 people at a Carolina Panthers vs. New York Giants halftime show and making a baseball appear to throw out the first pitch for a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game.
Grandinetti has performed at the White House and was the first illusionist invited to perform at the National Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C., in 2013. He levitated a girl high above a float as it traveled down Constitution Avenue.
Grandinetti knew from the age of 5 that performing magic and illusions was what he wanted to do with his life.
“I got a magic set for Christmas that year, and all my other gifts just faded into the background. I took my kit to show-and-tell in kindergarten, and I got a great response from my teacher and classmates. As a shy kid, that was pretty amazing.”
From that moment, Grandinetti tried to learn everything he could about magic. At 12, he put on his first show, and he hasn't stopped since.
When he was 16, the band director at West Mifflin approached Grandinetti and asked whether he could make a girl disappear for a halftime show at the high-school football games.
“I agreed to do the show, and it was great. I got to get out of math and English classes and go down to woodshop to work on my illusion. It worked, and I made a girl disappear from the football field and reappear in the bleachers among the crowd.”
By 18, Grandinetti was building original illusions in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
“I was doing bigger-scale things like making motorcycles appear and doing daring escapes. I wanted to design things people hadn't seen before. The response I got for these tricks was very rewarding.”
In addition to performing, he also consults with businesses to create illusions based on companies' slogans.
“I love doing creative magic to tell a story. When making illusions for companies, I try to take the basic ideas of magic, like levitation or disappearing, and shape that into the company's message.”
Although his career has expanded and flourished, Grandinetti still credits his success to the people of his hometown.
“The people from West Mifflin and Pittsburgh have always been very encouraging. It feels nice to have the support of the whole area. I am a product of a great area and a great family.”
Grandinetti's last performance in Pittsburgh was in 2013 at the A.J. Palumbo Center. He looks forward to bringing his show back to town soon.
Christy Walters is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.