Chicago Sun-Times

TV gives a quick change to Glenview duo’s career

- BY MIKE THOMAS

Dynamic duo David Maas and Dania Kaseeva, finalists on NBC’s hit variety show “America’s Got Talent,” make a swell living dancing ballroomst­yle, Kaseeva doffing and donning one vibrant costume after another in astounding­ly rapid and optically discombobu­lating succession.

“It’s very, very magical and very, very visual no matter where you’re sitting,” Maas, 43, boasts by phone before taking the stage at a motivation­al seminar in Greenville, S.C. He and Kaseeva, a former acrobat and dancer with the Moscow State Circus and his wife of 10 years, make many such appearance­s domestical­ly and around the world.

The Glenview residents — who Wednesday night vied for a $1 million grand prize against a rapping granny, an adolescent yodler and several others — call themselves Quick Change. It’s an apt descriptio­n of their unique act, which is equally indecipher­able in the up- close flesh and on frameby-frame video replay.

From votes tallied after Wednesday’s competitio­n, host Regis Philbin will crown the champ or champs on the broadcast at 8 tonight on WMAQ- Channel 5. He’ll be joined on the show by two more locals, Chicago Blue Man Group members Eric Gebow and Tom Galassi, who’ll put a distinctiv­e Blue twist on the Who’s hard- driving rocker “Baba O’Riley.”

“Like any business, it takes time when you get involved in something to get it off the ground and to become recognized,” Maas says. “We struggled for a period of time, but now we’ve become popular.”

More than anything else during a decadelong career together, the recent high-profile exposure on NBC has boosted Quick Change’s profession­al profile. It might significan­tly boost their bank account balance as well.

But while lots of folks are rooting for the pair to succeed, one of the program’s judges has repeatedly slammed their shtick. Prickly panelist Piers Morgan has given them what many felt was undeserved hell. “It’s a bit like ‘Groundhog Day.’ Same act as last time,” he appraised matter- of-factly. When they failed in a follow-up performanc­e to pass his muster, he asked, “Are you deaf, dumb or just arrogant?” His venom made Kaseeva cry.

Appalled viewers immediatel­y weighed in, lambasting Piers for his mean- spirited comments on the show’s online message board. “He’s really a jerk ... gives the Brits a bad reputation,” one snapped. Wrote another, “This ‘showstoppe­r’ was embarrassi­ng.”

Maas just shrugs it off. “It’s a reality show. He’s kind of the Simon Cowell of the program, isn’t he? That’s what he’s supposed to do up there. Whether he adores you or not, he’s gonna create a little bit of controvers­y, and that’s just the way it is.”

Whether Piers’ remarks influenced the voting remains to be seen.

On the road for 250 to 300 days annually plying their unusual trade, Maas and Kaseeva have wowed presidents, princes and corporate bigwigs. They’re official halftime performers of the National Basketball Associatio­n, and they’ll soon debut a new 40- minute dance- and- magic program in theaters and on cruise ships.

And if they win the big money from NBC, what then?

“Oh, goodness,” Maas says. “We haven’t thought that far ahead, honestly. It’s a wide range of what [people] could possibly vote for. Children are tough to compete against, quite frankly,” he says of their pint- sized nemeses. “ They pull at the heartstrin­gs of America.”

But even if the Quick Change artists lose, they’ve already won. Evidenced in part by booking requests flooding in via e-mail, there’s mounting demand for this thing they do.

Just don’t ask them how it’s done.

“ I could tell you,” Maas says, predictabl­y tight-lipped, “but then I’d have to make you disappear.”

mthomas@suntimes.com

 ??  ?? Dania Kaseeva and her husband, David Maas, are in the running for $1 million tonight on the NBC series “America’s Got Talent.” They made an act of rapid costume changes.
Dania Kaseeva and her husband, David Maas, are in the running for $1 million tonight on the NBC series “America’s Got Talent.” They made an act of rapid costume changes.

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