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More magic for museum in Myrtle Beach

Before the participants in the second annual Magic at the Beach convention disappear until 2012, they have one final act: a gala on Saturday, a benefit for the Children's Museum of South Carolina.

The curtain for "Champions of Magic" goes up at 7:30 p.m. at the Gilmore Auditorium, home of The Carolina Opry.

Returning as the show director, Mike Heidtman said the convention and its finale arose "as a dream" by two longtime friends and fellow magicians, Dave Tanner and Roman LePree, who co-own Broadway Magic, a store at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach.

Heidtman said when they searched for a partner to benefit from the public show, "the Children's Museum rose to the top of the list."

Feeding off the enthusiasm from the 2010 show at The Palace Theatre, which drew more than 1,600 people of all ages, Heidtman said expressed the thrill of bringing some of the "best magic acts to Myrtle Beach for the first time ever."

Heidtman sees magic's "sense of wonder" as a fascination that spellbinds people for life, for which one never grows too old.

"As children, we're always amazed by wonderful things," he said. "As adults, we become more curious. My dad was a hobbyist magician who would perform at my birthday parties."

While touring as a circus clown and assistant singing ringmaster in the 1990s, Heidtman found that in entertaining youngsters, "magic was a great way to make friends with them."

He later assisted a friend in Charlotte, N.C., as a magic demonstrator, then "rode the wave" to Myrtle Beach with a contract to perform at the former Pavilion Amusement Park.

Discussing some of the biggest names in magic worldwide, Heidtman said David Copperfield defines a "big-box illusionist," David Blaine brought close-up, "street magic" to the forefront, and the late Doug Henning broke the ice for magic shows in Las Vegas.

Heidtman said youth today might not know of Copperfield because he doesn't make TV shows, but they probably recognize Blaine and Criss Angel. He also likes how NBC's "America's Got Talent" provided a productive platform for magicians last year.

Magic moves forward in enjoining generations, Heidtman said, noting the continuing challenge for such entertainers to utilize newer methods and effects with their brethren to entice audiences.

"Criss Angel surrounds himself with some of the best," Heidtman said, referring to the "Mindfreak" host on cable TV's A&E.

Magic also envelops the globe and cultures. Having toured China twice with his own presentation choreographed to music, Heidtman saw that magic shows air nightly on television there.

"They are totally in love with their magic," he said. "They love watching magic and being fooled."

Whether magicians use illusions, sleight-of-hand skills or card tricks, Heidtman relates to and appreciates the paying of dues from putting in "the hours and hours of practice."

"I'm really just a juggler disguised as a magician," he said. "I keep it simple."

Regarding the convention, attended by magicians across the continent, Heidtman says timing it for this time of year works perfectly. With the lower, off-season area hotel rates - and large performance venues on break after two months of Christmas shows - the weekend stays affordable, especially for families.

Melanie McMurrain, operations manager for the Children's Museum, called "Champions of Magic" last year "so much fun" and says it's an honor to take part in it again.

"The show reaches audiences not only locally, but attracts magicians and their families from all over the world," she said. "It is a great benefit for the Children's Museum to be a partner to let the local, national and international public see that the museum is a vital community resource for families looking to grow and learn together."

McMurrain didn't contain her excitement, either, at seeing the acts who will grace the gala on Saturday.

"Watching the audience react to a great magic trick is the same look on the faces of the children as they touch, explore and play throughout the museum every day," she said.