Oct. 23--Teen magician Collins Key reluctantly auditioned for this year's "America's Got Talent," but now the Moorpark resident who rocketed to fame as a finalist on the popular NBC reality TV show says he's having "the time of my life."
After placing fifth in September, the 17-year-old Key has been traveling around the country with the America's Got Talent Live tour in recent weeks, which is coming Thursday to the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. Key is joined by the season's $1 million winner, dancer/performance artist Kenichi Ebina, and by comedy acrobats The KriStef Brothers, indie pop singer Cami Bradley, comedian Taylor Williamson, country singer Jimmy Rose and rapper Tone The Chiefrocca.
"The tour is going great. This is actually the first year that they've allowed someone under the age of 18 on the tour; I'm grateful they made an exception to have me on," Key said by phone this week. "It's cool to wake up in a new city every day, travel to a new place, being so young and being given so many opportunities, to play at all these theaters. It's a blast."
Key's hectic tour schedule includes performing in nearly three dozen cities from coast to coast in six weeks, visiting area schools, media interviews and chatting up "Keypers" or fans of all ages who encounter him in the street. But the tour, he said, is "way less nerve-wracking" than when he was competing on the show, creating new magic routines in less than two weeks -- or sometimes the night before -- and performing them in front of a live audience for the first time.
"I wake up every day and I think back on the AGT experience and having to perform on the show and honestly, (I wonder) how did I actually do it?" said Key, who uses a stage name. "It tested me and at the same time it showed me, if I can do that, I can do anything. It was a cool thing to gain that kind of confidence from the show."
And yet he's still surprised, he said, at how he and his interactive magic tricks have been embraced by so many around the country.
Every step of the way, he said, he's felt so much love and support from people who have watched him work his magic.
"People are so open. It's crazy. They come up to the street saying 'I voted for you, you did such an amazing job. You should have gotten way higher than fifth' (place)."
Being a contestant on the show required an extraordinary amount of time, effort and focus for Key, just as the tour is doing now, said his father Steven Muchnij, who is a professional emcee and owns the entertainment production company 11H Entertainment.
"There is no time off, he hasn't seen his friends, his family; it's been almost six months now but he knows what he wants to create, he knows what it takes and he's willing to put in the time and effort to be able to make it happen," Muchnij said.
Magicians on past seasons of "America's Got Talent" have gone on to do very well, said Jason Raff, an executive producer with the show. For example, Nathan Burton from Season 1, who returned to the show on Season 4, now performs in Las Vegas every week. Key was able to stand out as a magician, Raff said, not only because of his charisma but his unique take on magic, including mentalism, that connected him to a new generation.
"I imagine his future is bright," Raff said. "He's just got to figure out how to utilize his newfound fanbase and fame and still figure out how to be a kid -- because he is still a kid."
Auditions for America's Got Talent Season 9 will be held on Feb. 8 and 9 at the Los Angeles Biltmore.
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