The musicality & magic of Shin Lim at Mirage Las Vegas

The Mirage’s newest marquee name blends music and manipulation to stunning effect

Can magic be music? Let me explain that question.

Long before hopscotching the country, covering everyone from Jason Aldean to Celine Dion, yours truly was a magician and ventriloquist. To this day, I still have many friends in the field of the variety arts, and am endlessly fascinated with those who are able to bring a sense of wonder to the masses.

It was this fascination that led me to an end seat at the Mirage Theater in Las Vegas one evening during TMU’s recent trek to the desert. There, in that room, I saw resident performer Shin Lim elevate the art of illusion to something beyond mere trickery with his show, Limitless.

Lim has been at the Mirage for some time now, sharing the space with Ventriloquist-Impressionist Terry Fator. But when the pandemic hit, Fator moved hotels and cleared the way for Shin to take over the Mirage’s marquee. The proscenium is now a waterfall of lit-up card faces — Lim’s tool of choice is a deck of 52.

Shin Lim won America’s Got Talent not once, but twice — a feat not accomplished by any other act. He took home both a regular season trophy and million-dollar prize. He was then almost immediately crowned winner of the first season of AGT’s Champions spinoff. Lim won the hearts of Americans with his skillful manipulation, making cards appear, disappear, and transform.

But even that description doesn’t do it justice. Shin Lim turns “card magic” into… something else. And here’s where we return to my question from earlier. I wager the music in his routines has something to do with that elevation. Lim plays cards like one plays a musical instrument.

That blend makes sense, as Lim began his entertainment ambitions as a pianist, before carpal tunnel risk forced him to choose the cards or the keys. A win at FISM, the Olympics of Magic, the show explains, made that choice easy.

Early in the show, Shin Lim presents a routine to “Shape of My Heart” by Sting. Not being the biggest Sting fan in the world, this ace reporter assumed Shin had the song written for the routine. Yes, I just admitted to being a fool. But both the song and the card routine were that convincingly in sync.

Lim also has the incredible ability to present the beauty of his manipulation without an air of pretentiousness. He knows what he’s doing is beautifully meticulous, but he lets the work speak for itself. Practitioners of so-called “cardistry” have a reputation for being much more into themselves and aggrandizing about their skillset. Perhaps it’s the fact that Lim, a Millennial, is self-taught via YouTube. Maybe he’s as astonished at his abilities as we are?

Throughout the show, Lim’s silent, musical routines are offset by comic mentalist Colin Cloud. Cloud, also an AGT alum, compliments Lim in the best of ways: Cloud is a raconteur. Lim is not. Cloud does the comedic crowd work needed to offset Lim’s edge-of-your-seat artistry in order to create a full-bodied evening of entertainment. Cloud often acts as a narrator of sorts, taking the audience on a journey through Shin Lim’s career and creative ups and downs.

Another parallel to music, too, is that personal journey Shin Lim and Colin Cloud take us through. Lim bares all — talking about his success, his failures, and how they have pushed him to make the decisions that ultimately led to his show as the Mirage. Rarely does a magic show (and I hate using that word to describe Limitless) have its star get so personal. Like a songwriter processing emotions through lyrics, Shin Lim processes through those 52 hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds.

Also unlike other magicians, Lim knows how to use music to create beauty. Normally, the music exists to bop along to while we watch a tight-pants dude put a half-naked girl in a punch of boxes. Not so. The music here aides the journey in indescribable ways. The biggest magic trick that Shin Lim does the whole evening is transform card manipulation into lyrical, musical expressions of himself.

Limitless has it’s big moments too. But to describe those would be to ruin what is the most elegant evening of entertainment in Las Vegas. You will just have to experience the magic, the music, and the wonder they create for yourself.

Matt Bailey
Matt Bailey

Matt Bailey is podcast producer and writer located in the Northeast. Since 2013, Bailey has produced more than 160 episodes of his own online radio show, Talk For Two. In 2016 alone, he interviewed Kevin Bacon, Crystal Gayle, Bob Barker, and Gilbert Gottfried, among several other stars. As a Correspondent for The Music Universe, his focus is Broadway, country music and concert reviews.