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'Great Big' fun slated for Saturday at Central Park

Kenny Ahern and Jared Sherlock will join performer James Wedgewood at Saturday’s Great Big Minnesota Variety Show being held at Central Park. (Submitted photo)

For some, ventriloquism, magic and comedy could not be more different.

However, all three art forms will be coming together this weekend for the Great Big Minnesota Variety Show.

The variety show, which will be at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Central Park, will feature ventriloquist James Wedgewood, physical comedian Kenny Ahern and illusionist Jared Sherlock.

R.H. Stafford Branch Library is sponsoring the event.

“They did a really nice job of booking three totally different acts,” Ahern said.

“We’re all very different personalities, so all three pieces will be very different,” Wedgewood said.

The three performers are part of G.L. Berg Entertainment.

“We’re all kind of sold as a package,” Wedgewood said.

Playing with puppets

Wedgewood first started ventriloquism when he was just 9 years old.

“I’ve always liked puppets,” he said, “and I like making people laugh.”

While in college, Wedgewood studied acting, theater, stand-up comedy and improvisation before getting back into ventriloquism in the 1980s.

Wedgewood said the craft is so much more than just talking without moving your lips.

“It’s about making your characters look alive,” he said. “You have to create that separation between you and the puppet.”

Wedgewood said he has about seven or eight puppets that he travels with including a leprechaun, a hunter, a blues singer and even his uncle.

“You kind of just get an idea in your head for the characters,” he said. “It’s almost like they’re part of me already.”

Wedgewood will serve as the master of ceremonies during the Great Big Minnesota Variety Show.

Bringing the magic

Sherlock was first introduced to magic one Christmas by his grandparents when he was 8 years old.

Sherlock had received a magic trick for a gift and promptly went to the basement to perform his first magic show.

“It was a disaster,” he said. “Nothing went right.”

Sherlock’s magic tricks quickly became a Christmas tradition for his family.

“When you’re a nerdy kid, it’s a great way to meet people,” he said. “It was a good way to be social.”

Growing up, Sherlock looked to such great magicians as David Copperfield for inspiration.

“He was the magician of my generation,” he said. “It was almost impossible not to be influenced by him because as a kid, he was larger than life.”

Sherlock’s magic tricks, which incorporate comedy, include everything from disappearing and appearing people to sawing people in half to everything in between.

He said audiences can expect great entertainment during the Great Big Minnesota Variety Show.

“When I watch (Wedgewood and Ahern) perform,” he said, “I feel like a student in a master class.”

Traveling with the circus

Ahern stumbled into performing by accident when a college professor of his encouraged him to audition for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus.

“It wasn’t something that I planned on,” he said, “but really turned out to be my destiny.

“My job is to travel around the world and make people laugh.”

Ahern spent five years touring with the circus as a physical comedy clown.

“I always liked making people laugh,” he said. “I really enjoy hearing the audience laugh.”

During his act, Ahern does a variety of tricks including juggling and balancing acts.

“One thing that makes me a little bit unique is that I do not speak in my act,” he said. “People have no choice but to watch me.” 

Ahern said he hopes to have a good turnout for the Great Big Minnesota Variety Show.

“This is wonderful family entertainment,” he said. “It’s not just children’s theater that is bearable for parents.

“There’s nothing better than looking up and seeing the whole audience laughing at the same time.”

The Great Big Minnesota Variety Show will be Saturday, Nov. 2 at 1:30 p.m. at the Central Park amphitheater.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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