From the Orlando Sentinel
Famed magicians Penn & Teller are creating a Las Vegas-themed haunted house for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios.
The storyline of the maze will be involve the duo’s new trick featuring a nuclear warhead, Penn Jillette said this week.
“We blow up all of Las Vegas. It goes terribly, terribly wrong,” said Jillette, the taller one of the twosome.
So, the house, called “Penn & Teller New(kd) Las Vegas,” will have a radioactive feel and include Vegas staples such as showgirls, slot machines and an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The idea is “to take all the lights and the sounds and all the clichés of Las Vegas and turn them upside down into a fun nightmare, which is what haunted mazes are supposed to be,” Jillette said.
Universal Orlando officials approached Penn & Teller with the Halloween Horror Nights proposal early this year, said Jim Timon, senior vice president of entertainment. Both Penn and Teller have made multiple trips to Orlando to work on the project with Universal’s creative team.
“They’re not just putting their name on a haunted house,” Timon said.
They liked being working in the same room as Universal’s Horror Nights veterans, Jillette said.
“So much of collaboration is nonverbal,” he said. “If you sit across the table from someone and you start to get excited about an idea, you watch everyone’s faces. If they don’t light up in exactly the right way, the idea changes as you’re talking.”
Teller, who legally changed his name to be just a single word, and Penn have been in the entertainment industry for more than 35 years, with tours of their magical act, best-selling books, Broadway productions and the Showtime television series “Penn& Teller: BS!” They have been doing a stage show in Las Vegas since 2001.
Teller, who rarely speaks during their routines, said he has been Halloween fan since childhood.
“From probably the age of 8 or so, my house was the neighborhood horror haunt.” he said this week. He recalled his mother welcoming kids into a dark hallway littered with obstacles such as tennis balls. She would then let out a shriek, which would alert their bark-happy black Labrador. His dad would lurk beneath a sheet in the kitchen, where he would hand out candy to rattled trick-or-treaters.
“It was heaven for me because I orchestrated that sort of stuff,” Teller said. As an adult, he co-wrote and directed a Broadway horror show called “Play Dead.”
Therefore, working with the Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights veterans has been “a pure joy,” he said.
“These are people with a proficiency level in a very curious art form that is completely staggering to me,” Teller said. “There’s no question about it, that these they are the best professionals in the world. You can read that someplace but when you sit in a room with them and they say ‘Well, no, clowns coming from that angle won’t be that terrifying, but if you have them coming from this direction, people will scream.’ “
He said there was a back-and-forth style of collaborating with Universal that was similar to the creative process used for Penn & Teller.
“In many cases what we added was the funny element — the extra little ironic element, a little extra Penn & Teller touch,” Teller said.
The magicians will appear in videos included in their house.
“We will set up the premise of the place. We will tell you about our horrible accident. And then all the way through we’ll try to make you think you’re having a good time while you’re really having a scary time,” Teller said. “We’ll be telling you what a lovely, comfortable, pleasant environment you’re living in while monsters are throwing themselves at you.”
Although the haunted house blows up their current hometown, Jillette thinks that will be OK with Las Vegas residents.
“We love Las Vegas. But one of the great things about Las Vegas is that it’s one of the places in this country that’s very happy making fun of itself,” he said. “I think New Jersey, L.A. and Las Vegas are the best at the people who live here actually not taking it seriously at all.”
The Penn & Teller house is the fourth one revealed by Universal this year. Other mazes will be based on the music of Alice Cooper, “The Walking Dead” television series and the Silent Hill video games and films. Halloween Horror Nights is an after-hours, extra-ticket event with scary haunted houses and other attractions. It runs for 25 select nights, beginning Sept. 21.