As Niagara Falls weekend GO service returns to take customers to and from the famous tourist destination, the area’s best known performer-in-residence – and one of the world’s most accomplished magicians – explains why the Falls have him locked up tight.
Greg Frewin has pulled off one of the most elaborate feats in the history of prestidigitation. He’s managed to quietly hide a very Canadian existence within a bigger-than-life Niagara Falls spectacle.
The 52-year-old magician seems as much a modern staple of Niagara Falls as, say, running water. His production, inside a local 700-seat theatre named after him, is based on decades of performances around the world that have won him a magic box full of trophies, including the prestigious Magician of the Year Award at the World Magic Awards, as well as a first place for the International Federation of Magic Societies.
In fact, the show is fast evolving to be as much of an ode to the personal journey of a hockey-loving kid from Hamilton into mystic top-tier magician – it started with a coin slight-of-hand from his grandfather – as the evolving and fancy tricks themselves.
Frewin decided to not settle in a place like Vegas, and instead made Niagara Falls a permanent location, because it allows him to embrace Canadian winters, as well as stay within reach of friends and family – including his wife and two children. He can still lace up the skates and appreciates life on his 10-acre property, including looking after the animals used in his act.
Metrolinx is once again partnering with the Niagara Parks Commission to make it easy for people to experience the fun and excitement of the Niagara Region with the GO Niagara Parks pass. And with so much to see, do, and experience at the Falls, we asked Frewin why he fell hard for Niagara Falls and what are the local traits he still finds endearing.
“It’s not like Vegas,” he says on the border city that, for many around the world, is as well-known as the Grand Canyon or Atlantic City. “It hasn’t grown crazy, and hasn’t lost the smaller town flavour.
“Many of my favourite old restaurants are here.”
Some things have changed or been updated. Maple Leaf Village, the former amusement park and entertainment complex where he honed his craft, has been replaced with Casino Niagara. And names on the boats that move passengers, wrapped in their plastic ponchos, up to the wall of water, have been rebranded over time.
While Niagara Falls is his stage, whenever friends come to town, he takes them on a Hornblower Niagara Cruise or helicopter ride above the Falls.
“I can’t believe this is in our backyard,” he points out. “For thousands of years, it’s just been here.”
He asks, can you imagine what the first inhabitants to see the water rushing over – likely hearing it long before the view – thought? It must have seemed like true magic.
Among his favourite escapes is to get lost in the green space and parks that reach out from the commercial and Falls district.
Though he says the city’s live performances – including his own – are worth taking your eyes off the water for.
The GO-Niagara Parks pass makes it possible for your excursions to stretch across the Niagara Falls area – from Clifton Hill to Niagara on the Lake and all of the shows, restaurants and attractions in between – for $35. The pass includes round-trip fare from Toronto to Niagara Falls and a WEGO bus pass to get from the station to wherever your waterfall loving heart desires. And, your kids 12-and-under are free.
Tourists young and old will be in awe of Frewin’s show that features real tigers including a rare white siberian, and exotic birds from around the globe. And the show is always changing so you can go again, and again, and again.
As part of the evolution of his act, he’s slowly adding in elements to make it autobiographical. His family, including his father for years and his mother for a time, worked at Hamilton’s legendary Stelco steel plant. In tribute, he’s adding in a 15-foot tall, limb-risking mechanical element into his performance.
Growing up in awe of the likes of Canadian magician Doug Henning, as well as Vegas icon Lance Burton, Frewin says his show – as well as the city it’s set in – allows him to daily reflect on the past, while constantly being mesmerized by the present.
For a kid from Canada, that’s very practical magic.
GO Niagara travel packages are available online now at gotransit.com/Niagara – just click here to magically go there – for $35 per person or $65 per group starting May long weekend (May 18-20). Service will resume again June 22 through to September 2nd, and again for Thanksgiving weekend (Oct 12 to 14).
For more information on Greg Frewin’s Niagara Falls performance click here.
Story by Sara Wilbur, Metrolinx communications coordinator.