Thrillusionist David DaVinci is performing on Friday and Saturday nights at Canyonlands by Night and Day through Oct. 13. [Photo by Amanda Hoskinson]

Ten years ago, local real estate agent LuDean Merritt was delighted by a grand idea of her new client – a world-traveled and acclaimed showman by the name of David DaVinci who aspired to bring a theater to Moab.

“I thought the idea was a little ahead of its time,” Merritt said. “People hadn’t really discovered Moab yet.”

This year, Merritt is happy to say that DaVinci has not only brought his dream to fruition, but offers something different for tourists and locals alike, of all ages.

The David DaVinci Theater is located on the north end of town, inside Canyonlands by Night and Day at 1861 N. U.S. Highway 191. The premiere kicked off on May 15, and the shows will continue to run Friday and Saturday evenings at 9 p.m. through Oct. 13.

The theater seats 204, and offers air conditioning, a state-of-the-art sound and light system, and alcoholic beverages.

“It is a kid-friendly show, but it is not a kid’s show,” DaVinci said.

This distinction is perhaps as important to DaVinci as the difference between a “magician” and a “Thrillusionist,” of which he is the latter.

“A magician is someone who terrorizes children at birthday parties for $25 an hour or – in the case of a last-minute cancellation – is your drunk Uncle Charlie who has convinced himself he can juggle, which he cannot,” wrote DaVinci’s associate, Rodney LaCroix. “In contrast to a magician or normal illusionist, this Thrillusionist has made elephants appear, held his breath underwater for three minutes while escaping chains and locks and has even escaped a straitjacket while suspended from a free-flying hot air balloon.”

While the David DaVinci Theater is designed for more intimate sleight-of-hand illusions, DaVinci is still actively pursuing similar high-risk stunts.

“We are currently slating a skydiving magic trick, in conjunction with Skydive Moab,” DaVinci said. “(I’m) not sure how soon we can pull it off, but I’ve started training for it extensively.”

Moab resident Keith MacBeth met the showman through Skydive Moab when DaVinci came with a bachelor party to tandem skydive. It was DaVinci’s first jump.

“It’s cool to see him come back with 50 jumps as a licensed skydiver,” MacBeth said.

MacBeth has gone to several of DaVinci’s shows since he opened the theater.

“I went up on a stage and did a trick with him with a couple $100 bills and he absolutely blew my mind,” MacBeth chuckled. “He had me write on them and they ended up inside of a lemon that he cut open right in front of me.”

MacBeth said he believes the show is a hit for all ages.

“From children up to adults – everybody that sees those tricks (is) blown away,” he said. “I think everyone loves magic, no matter how old you are. There were some older people and they were just in awe. It’s cool to see people in awe at that age.”

Merritt agrees.

“Everyone loves (DaVinci),” she said. “I’ve gone to quite a few shows, and kids can be as kids are, but once he starts, there is something about him that gets their full attention. It’s neat to watch the kids watch him.”

DaVinci said that the Moab shows are different every night, and while he has gotten the feedback, “You should be in Vegas,” the Thrillusionist prefers Moab at this point in his life.

“Since the venue is so intimate, I’m able to cater my show on-the-fly to the exact expectations or desires of the audience,” he said. “There are a lot of opportunities for moments of amazement, and a lot of moments of piss-your-pants funny. The audience guides the show – it’s really a fun challenge for me. I can’t get away with that on cruise ships … and although I keep it PG, I’m constantly challenged to make my innuendos more intelligent and ‘punny.’”

DaVinci and his wife Jamieleigh are also famously known as world-class bird trainers – the duo trained parrots for David Copperfield in the Bahamas – which is what brought them to Moab. The couple purchased 6 acres just south of the town, where they’re setting up a free-flying parrot sanctuary for their flock with room to expand for future conservation efforts.

The parrots, along with other surprises, are featured at the David DaVinci Theater.

Sleight-of-hand showman has something for everyone

What: David DaVinci Thrillusionist show

When: Friday and Saturday nights at 9 p.m.

Where: Canyonlands by Night and Day, 1861 N. U.S. Highway 191

Cost: $20-$35

Information:, or 435-259-5261

The audience guides the show – it’s really a fun challenge for me.