It’s always a pleasure to see how much Las Vegas headliners and entertainers give back to their community. Case in point is the tremendously talented music and magic duo of Raja Rahman and Jarrett Parker aka Jarrett & Raja Productions.
Jarrett & Raja Productions, along with community partners Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada, Nevada Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts and Southern Nevada Music, brings “Raja and Friends In Concert” to the Flamingo Library, April 6, 2015, at 7:30 p.m.
Proceeds from this unique community event will benefit Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada. “Raja and Friends In Concert” will feature performances of Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata, Chopin’s “Revolutionary” Etude, Dvorak’s “Dumky” Trio, Hindemith’s Sonata No. 4 for Viola and Piano and more. Performances by “America’s Got Talent” pianist Raja Rahman; Cirque du Soleil “O” cellist Dena Massaro; Grammy-nominated arranger, original Broadway orchestra member of “The Lion King,” former musical director for The Who’s Roger Daltrey, and violist Ralph Farris; and Las Vegas Philharmonic, “ShowStoppers” violinist De Ann Letourneau.
Anything can happen with these two talented entertainers: one of whom is very left-brained, the other very right. During an interview last year at a popular coffee pub the power was completely knocked out by lightning. I jokingly said to illusionist Jarrett, “Hey, you’re the magician. Make the lights come back on!” He laughed, snapped his fingers–and the power came on–much to the delight of other customers.
This type of serendipity pretty well sums up the path the duo have traversed since they first met at a Friar’s club event in New York City. Opposites do attract and much like the two sides of one coin, Jarrett, who was trained by the legendary magician Harry Blackstone, Jr. and Raja, a graduate with two degrees from the prestigious Julliard School of Music, subsequently formed the internationally renown act of “Jarrett and Raja.”
The unusual combination of magic and music carried the newborn act to the Lincoln Center in New York, on to Las Vegas, to a two-year tour in southeast Asia, and then to this season’s “America’s Got Talent.” All seemed to be going well on “AGT” until the semi finals when the act was cut as cleanly as Jarrett has been known to sever Raja in half.
“There was a heckler in the audience who started to boo. When you hear that before you’ve even begun the magic, you wonder if something else is going that you don’t even know about,” said Jarrett. “The act is only ninety seconds and so much is going on technically and theatrically you have to keep your focus. Half the audience was cheering, half was booing. This was on high caliber, national TV. We couldn’t believe we wouldn’t be going on.”
Apparently, Howie Mandel couldn’t believe it either. He asked “Jarrett and Raja” to come back and compete with twelve other rejected contestants on the “America’s Got Talent” wild-card show.
In a move that even startled the judges, (Howard Stern said they had been “robbed”), their act was cut again. However, the duo, who in October will be celebrating their tenth anniversary in showbiz, have learned resilience and determination over the years, according to Raja.
“The act for wild-card was created in two and a half weeks. That’s unheard of within the industry. We got the building done, the choreography, and the music. August 21 (on wild-card) was the first time we performed it. Five minutes before we went on stage I couldn’t even smile my brain was so focused. I had a job to do before 20 million people. The pressure was ridiculous.” Although they got voted off, the standing ovation from the live audience, said Raja, was a once in a lifetime experience. “It was just pure joy. We had redeemed ourselves to America.”
Raja, the right-brain and hapless, hacked up, and even blown up foil for Jarrett, takes his classical piano training seriously. At Julliard he received the Vladimir Horowitz Scholarship and he has appeared in concert with world class conductors including: Mstislav Rostropovich, Valerie Gergiev, and Iona Brown. Raja has always had a taste for acting.
“At first, going from the classical to doing wacky stuff on the stage was weird for me, but I enjoyed it. Victor Borgia is always a source of inspiration. He was more than a showman he was a great pianist. I’ve realized it’s possible to be a very good pianist and be an entertainer as well. The music for each of our shows is composed and created from scratch. The music will always be as equally strong as the magic. Siegfried and Roy had the tigers. We have the piano.”
They also have the always busy right-brain of master illusionist, Jarrett, who physically builds the contraptions used on the stage. “I’m always thinking in the back of my head, ‘what can I do to Raja to mess with his head?’ Sawing him in half is a fun act to do.”
Prior to meeting Raja, Jarrett starred in a nationwide Nintendo tour as the “ Power Wizard“, where he got to repeatedly saw Zelda in half and restore her. He has several motion pictures, TV projects, national commercials, and an Off-Broadway production under his utility belt.
The two brains are of one mind when it comes to projections for their future. They know how to make things bigger and better. They know they have a unique niche in showbiz. And that’s a fact: No illusion…and no wild card. – Christine McKellar
Tickets for “Raja and Friends In Concert” at the Flamingo Library, April 6, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. are on sale now at rajaconcert.brownpapertickets.com or 1-800-838-3006. Adults $15, children $10. For more information please visit: http://jarrettandraja.com/