Friday, January 9, 2015
I hear that Michael Finney, Jonathan Pendragon and Michael Turco are among the performers in Atlantic City. I don't know who the cast is on the West Coast.
IF you are near these locations, please take the time to go see the shows. The Masters of Illusion Show is an excellent production that showcases the best acts in magic. They will be touring all year long so watch for them to come to a city near you!
Speaking of Magic on TV, Wizard Wars starts up again on the SyFy Network in a couple weeks. AND Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller fame, has his own show on the Travel Channel called Penn Jillette's Street Cred, which features Street Performers from across the country and each week an act has a chance to win $10,000. It's different but I saw one of the episodes and enjoyed it. You'll have to check the listings on the Travel Channel to see when it airs.
Speaking of the Travel Channel, one of their regular shows, Mysteries At the Museum, often features magic. I've seen a number of stories on items stored in Ken Klosterman's collection, The Salon deMagie. They've covered, Houdini, The Great Lafayette, and recently I saw a story of John Mullholland. Even when they don't feature magic history stories, it's still a cool show.
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
We have all heard the term Golden Age of Magic. I'm not really sure if there is a true beginning and ending to the Golden Age, but my guess would be 1890-1930. This is when magic really took off. Kellar, Houdini, Thurston, Blackstone, Dante and others ruled the stages. After 1930s, magic certainly continued but with the death of Vaudeville and the advent of movies and TV magic lost it's once mighty place in the world of showbiz.
Magicians know that magic continued and saw the rise of different kinds of magic, the manipulators, like Cardini worked nightclubs. Illusionists like Jack Gwynne changed their acts so they could work in the round on dance floors. And of course, there was the rise of the close-up magicians with men like Dai Vernon, Charlie Miller, Ross Bertram and others. Magic was forced to adapt and it did, but with the death of the traveling illusion show, magic faded from the eyes of the general public for the most part.
Within the magic world, things were red hot. Close-up was the big craze and it was moving leaps and bounds over all the other types of magic. Folks like Paul Harris, Michael Ammar, John Carney, David Williamson, David Roth and others were now the big stars. Just when we thought there would be no more magic on TV, some kid named David Blaine showed up and rewrote the book on magic. David Blaine, like Henning before him, ushered in a whole new style and type of magic, Street Magic. Granted it was really close-up magic, but it was close-up stripped of the bells and whistles. It was highly visual magic that was often 'in your face'. No more tuxedos, no more big boxes, no more rabbits, magic was going in a new direction.
It was during this time, I would read on blogs and in magic magazines how some thought magic was dead. Some writers felt that magic was probably on it's last legs and because of the way technology was changing, we would soon all be gone. For the record, I've been hearing the doom and gloom scenario from magicians for years.
That brings me to now, 2014-2016. I think we have hit the Platinum Age of Magic. No more Golden
On TV, The Carbenero Effect, Wizard Wars, Penn & Teller Fool-Us, Masters of Illusion, Steve Cohen's History Channel Special Lost Secrets of Magic, and the recent HOUDINI Miniseries. That was just last year! There were even MORE TV Magic Shows in England and Europe! The MAGICIANS was huge show in England, Derren Brown's TV Specials are big hits, Dynamo is a household name in Europe because of his TV show. I understand there is a lot more magic in the works for 2015.
The Platinum Age of Magic is here my friends. Ride The Wave and let's hope it lasts for a quite a while!
Tomorrow, I will be attending The Illusionists Show at The Kennedy Center, so expect a review in a few days.
Monday, October 20, 2014
Once Upon A Time…….You could go to a theatre regularly and see a magician or several magicians perform LIVE. That was called the Golden Age of Magic and the Golden Age of Vaudeville. Then along came Movies and then Television and all that stopped. The field shrunk down to only a few big time traveling illusion shows, Blackstone Sr. was the main one. But even Blackstone had difficulty as time went on.
Then, there was a time when there were none. At least, none of the big traveling shows. Until, Doug Henning came along, followed by David Copperfield and around that same time Harry Blackstone Jr.. Each one of them had great runs. Two of those great artists died before their time, Henning and Blackstone Jr.. After David Copperfield stopped touring, that seemed to be it. There were no big traveling magic shows.
All that has changed, again. For the past few years a little touring show has been moving across the country called Masters of Illusion. This was followed by a summer TV Series on the CW Network, also called Masters of Illusion, this past summer (2014). The TV show featured different magicians each week demonstrating their various talents. The LIVE show has a revolving cast and I assume all of them have appeared on the TV show at some point.
I saw the show at the Warner Theatre in Washington D.C. this past week. I am happy to say there was a very big crowd. I am unhappy to say, there should have been a bigger crowd, because it seemed one segment of society was missing from the audience, the magic community. I think I spotted two other magicians in the audience and that was all. There could have been more, but I remember the days when the magicians would flood out to see a show like this. WE as the magic community have a responsibility to support our fellow artists. (ok, I’m off my soapbox now)
I'm not 100% on this order, but I think Titou from France was up next. Here is a very likeable and funny performer who had some great one-liners in his set. He did the first audience participation routine and it was very well received. Look forward to seeing more from this fellow in the future.
Greg Gleason was up next and his first set started with a very unusual Broom Suspension Illusion using a chair and a feather boa. I can't recall seeing anything like this before and really liked it. His assistant was superb and has a million dollar smile. Greg did several routines which I won't reveal because I don't want to spoil the surefire surprises for anyone who has yet to see the show.
Farrell Dillon was up doing his first set of manipulation. I like Farrell, I think he is extremely clever and very talented. He is basically doing Chavez style manipulations but he is doing them with very funny patter. He has taken a tired old 'seen it a million times' type of magic act and made it fresh and fun.
Rick Thomas was also on hand. Rick is well known for being one of the big Tiger/Animal acts in magic. But on this show, no animals at all. Rather it was Rick and minimal props and a lot of personality. His first routine was a Chair Suspension that looked like a Zany Blaney Ladder Levitation. He did the routine with a boy from the audience and just brought the house down. Great stuff.
There was a short intermission allowing folks to get something to drink or buy something from the Masters of Illusion Traveling Store. It looked like they did quite well with back of the room sales, which is great for any show.
I totally enjoyed the first half of the show. But let me say, the second half of the show was about as good as it gets in the world of magic. The energy level went up and up after each act. The audience, who had been very receptive to the show from the start, was now moving towards a fevers pitch. Each act was hitting a home run. I'm not revealing any of the routines from the second half except for one.
Rick Thomas presented a mini illusion called Liquid Glass. It's a routine created by Jim Steinmeyer and based on an effect of Peter Warlocks. Basically, it's a needle through glass trick done on a larger scale. I have seen it done before. I ALMOST bought one a couple times. Well, when Rick Thomas and his assistant Tara came out, they killed with this prop. In fact, it was so strong, so entertaining, so dumbfounding that all I could think was, "Rick Thomas needs to do a lecture on THIS!" His presentation was brilliant. It had everything you could ask for, it was visually interesting, it was fun to watch, it was energetic, it was funny, it was dramatic, it had movement, class, style and importantly, it was easy to follow, it was crazy good. It's a good trick to begin with, but he brought it to the level of fantastic.
The Liquid Glass routine was not the closer to the show, there was much more to come following that routine, but it was such a stand out piece to me, I wanted to make a special notation of it. From an audience stand point, it’s hard to say what their favorite routine might have been. Maybe the Wakeling Sawing where Rick Thomas allowed 20 people to join him onstage. Perhaps it was the breathtaking closer to the show, or the hilarious Straight Jacket Escape by Farrell Dillon. It’s just hard to say.
Here is what I can tell you about the show. I watched the spectators, the lay people, from the moment they came in the door. I was really quite surprised at the number of couples that attended, what a great sign. There were children and families who came, but not as many as I would have thought (it was a school night, so that might play into it). The age range was all over the board, people from their 20s right up to Seniors. This was a very ethnically diverse audience. I’d say it was equally split between males and females. The one thing they all had in common, they were having a great time! They got to see top notch magic, excellent comedy, and some really beautiful moments of illusion.
This production is Gay Blackstone's baby. I know there are other people involved, but Gay brings decades of experience to this production and it can be seen in every aspect of the show. She deserves the credit for finding the great talent and structuring a show that allows each act to shine equally. I’m sure if you looked closely you would see her fingerprints on almost every aspect of the production. This is a show to be proud of for sure.
I want to share a bit of personal history. I saw my first professional magic show as a kid at the Warner Theatre many years before. I sat with my parents and brother in the third row from the stage. I was seeing Harry Blackstone Jr. for the first time. He toured with a big production, a live orchestra, and a big cast. I remember vividly when he walked out on stage and made that birdcage vanish. I remember him stepping backstage to get a second cage and repeating the trick, this time with audience members touching the sides of the cage. I remember later in the show the Floating Light bulb, which floated down into the audience only a few feet from where we were sitting. I remember a Patriotic Drum routine where hundreds of flags were produced out of it and eventually a person. I remember the Flower Garden routine. Hey, it was my first real live magic show and I can remember almost all of it.
Seeing the Masters of Illusion Show at the Warner was a continuation of this incredible Blackstone tradition. For the audience, it was an evening of wonder and laughter and the very best kind of family friendly entertainment!
PLEASE Be sure to support this show if it comes to your area. Tell your friends, your family, your co-workers about the show and where to get tickets. Trust me, they’ll be happy you did!
By the way, be sure to check out the October 2014 Issue of Genii Magazine with the Masters of Illusion LIVE TV Show on the cover!