After hours of flying and prepping, we successfully pulled off a grand illusion show for the Toyota/ Lexus gala dinner in Oman. Under the patronage of His Highness Sayyid Haitham Bin Tariq Al Said, Minister of Heritage and Culture, the gala dinner was held in honour of Akio Toyoda, President, Toyota Motor Corporation who flew in for a series of business activities that ended with this function. All guests were VIPs in Oman from government officials to top Toyota management.
This was a very important event and the Oman media reported on Mr Toyoda’s visit. The client, Saud Bahwan Group, also had full-page ads in the local papers to welcome him.
For this high-profile event, we designed a 30min show that featured many of our signature illusions. We shared the entertainment program with Nancy Ajram, a Lebanese singer who is one of the top celebrity music acts in the Arab world. Most people in our part of the world would probably not know who she is… but she is the face of Coca Cola in the Middle East… nuff said!
During our discussions and conference calls with the client prior, we had agreed on the show program. It was to be as spectacular as possible given the constraints of the venue. We were performing in the Al Bustan Palace, probably the top hotel in the country but the ballroom was built for more weddings than large-scale events. It had little depth and stage facilities.
But, this is what we are really best at: Creating high impact/ high value illusion shows in “uncontrollable environments”. Over the weeks, I had worked with the show production team to design the stage layout and space allocation. The stage was built up and extended with staging curtains erected for us to work our show.
We also had tailored the show slightly to the cultural sensitivities of the Oman VIP audience. For e.g., one of the things we did was to cover up ‘Magic Babe’s’ costume a bit. We added custom lycra sleeves to cover her shoulders to be “more respectful to the VIP audience”.
We had no issue making the adjustments as we were guests in the country and respected the culture sensitivities but here is an interesting tidbit on how “unique” these cultural sensitivities can be. Nancy Ajram had a very sexy and sensual MTV that was shown as her band was setting up before her set. The MTV showed her in very sexy revealing negligee frolicking in bed. It was presented in good taste but was very sexy. We asked why that was ok but Ning’s costume was not, and the answer was because it was on film… hmmm… 🙂
We were briefed and “warned” before hand that VIP audiences in Oman do not react with applause or cheers as it is not the culture and social norm for VIPs to show appreciation in this way. They are generally silent during a performance and do not show expressive emotion.
The table set-up in the ballroom was a single long row of dining tables that lined the front of the stage (like a judging panel) with the rest of the 500 guests in traditional round tables behind, filling the rest of the room. This is typical for VIP functions with royalty present.
Despite the possibility of performing to a “cold” audience, our strategy was to do the show as we would if it were for any other audience. We believed in our content and personalities and that they would break through any cultural barrier. After all, good magic is a universal language.
And, honestly, the crowd from VIP to the rest of the guests were extremely warm and responsive to us. They reacted to applause cues with enthusiasm and had members of the audience raising their hands up in the air while they clapped. They laughed at our jokes, even the more subtle ones. Ning shared that she (in her onstage persona) gave one the VIPs on the VIP table a cheeky wink… and he winked back! :-O
It was a thrill getting that sort of reaction and the acts that went especially over with the audience were “Crystal Metamorphosis”, “The Trick with the Bottle & the Glass”, “360 Sawing” and “Extreme Burn”.
One of the clients spoke to us after the show and congratulated us on a good show and remarked how surprising it was for the VIP audience to be responding to us with applause and laughter. He also remarked that while he had seen many illusion shows from across the world, he thought ours was presented very intellectually and had a very good script. Very specific astute comments.
The show producer from UK was pleased with the show too and stated that felt that we were the perfect fit for this event due to our material and presentation style & delivery. He shared that we were picked from a list of half a dozen international illusionists and magicians (many well-known in the magic community). Well, the credit goes to him and his team for making the right choice 😛
I should mention that the show production team was a tremendous joy to work with. Working with a professional team who shares common goals and work ethic just makes it so much easier to put up a good show.
The Oman media also acknowledged our show as one of the highlights of the gala dinner:
“The famous International Illusionists – JC Sum and ‘Magic Babe’ Ning also held everyone spellbound with their excellent repertoire of mesmerising acts.
At the end of the hugely successful event, one senior dignitary summed it up: “The clockwork precision with which the shows were organised, one after another, was truly admirable. Congratulations.”
Read the whole article here.
We are really honoured to be the first ever Singapore illusionists to perform in Oman. We hope we did our country proud!
Immediately after our show, the team packed down the show for a bit before going for dinner. We then headed back at the end of the event to pack down completely and case our props for shipping back tot Singapore. We finished just after midnight and headed back to our rooms to wash up and pack.
Our airport transfer was scheduled for 2am (yes, hours after the show), so gathered our things and began our journey back to Singapore, through Dubai.
The Concept:Magic team did a fantastic job for this project and everyone excelled in their specific roles which is why the project went smoothly. Logistics, administrative and show technical support are just as important as what Ning & I do on stage that makes the show work. And, we did have a great time & experience as well 🙂 Though, I got a bit sun burnt… and my jeans ripped during the show 😀
Ning will blog about some of the behind scenes exciting stuff about our trip, so check out her blog in a few days. Here are some sneak preview pics: