I know. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. But, we have been traveling and busy with multiple projects on hand. We will be traveling even more into 2013 for shows so maybe blog entries may not be as regular as before. But, you will get to read a string of entries once I’m back or free to write.
This entry backdates to more than a month ago where we spent 3 weeks in Genting, Malaysia. Ning & I were part of “Superstars of Magic 2” that took place at the Genting Resorts World, Casino & Resort, in Malaysia from 18 August – 9 September 2012. A total of 25 shows (evening and matinee) were staged and is South East Asia’s largest international magic production to date.
The show is produced by Malaysia’s own magic producer/ mentalist, David Lai, along with magician, Andrew Lee, and their magic team. We have previously worked with David and Andrew, along with other international magicians like Rafael, Michael Grasso and Tony Clark, in other shows in the Middle East and Asia.
As the name implies, this is the second installment of the show in Genting and featured 8 international magic acts from North America, Europe and Asia.
US Comedy Magician, Chipper Lowell, was the hardworking emcee that held the show together with his appearances at the start of the show and between acts. Besides introducing the performers and setting the audience in the right mood appropriate for the acts, Chipper peppered the show with hilarious antics and comedy magic bits. From appearing as Superman flying in at the start, to performing the vanishing bottle with a kicker twist and making an impossible colour prediction, there is no doubt that the Malaysia crowd loved him. His comedy and magic crossed cultural and language barriers that endeared him to the, on occasion only Mandarin-speaking, crowd. One of his highlight routines was a card/ cigar box juggling combination that is innovative and fun. It is full of entertainment value, bits of business and is an obvious workhorse routine by a seasoned pro.
The first full act of the show was Charlie Frye & Company, in this case, his lovely wife Sherry. Sherry adds much to the comedic element of the act, not only helping with the transitions and actual juggling sequences but also plays the perfect role of the disinterested assistant who constantly eggs Charlie on to do better in the act. Charlie presented signature parts of his act including one of the best Chinese Linking Ring stage presentations we have ever seen. It combines physical comedy with the giant-sized rings literally passing over, around and down his body and linking with each other at the same time. His bowling ball zombie is a strong piece of magic as the ball is shown to be solid before and after the floating sequence by being dropped heavily on the stage floor. His final act, which combines balancing with a precision drop to his finale pose, never missed once in 25 shows and never failed to get a strong ovation from the audience. A great way to start the show!
Award-winning French manipulator, Nestor Hato, is well known for his flashy card manipulation style that includes card spins, tosses, bounces and catches. His “dub step” music choice was also very modern and catchy that had the audience grooving as they watched his act. Nestor has the uncanny ability to allow cards to drop and cascade in beautiful patterns as they are being produced. Even the action of allowing a fan of cards to dribble to the floor after they are produced is aesthetically pleasing. The act includes card productions, juggling, silk productions and his signature colour changing hair sequence. He has a strong competition-style ending complete with confetti cannon blast and kabuki streamers to close his act.
Christian Lindemann from Germany is a Cirque Du Soleil artist who specializes in pick pocketing. The character that he plays is that of a stereotypical fast-talking Italian complete with drawn on handlebar mustache. His catchphrase of “I Like” (delivered in a deliberate cheesy way with a slight hint of sleaziness and raised eyebrow) had the audience in tickles throughout the act. His is the act most dependent on audience participation and picking the right person is key to the success of the act. Regardless, his “victim” was picked of practically every item from his various pockets. From wallets, money, show tickets, glasses, car keys and mobile phones, nothing was safe from these fast fingers. When appropriate, Christian also stole the spectator’s belt or necktie or both! It became a running joke offstage for the cast & crew as every time Christian greets someone, he would pat them down in jest, as though feeling for items in their pockets to pick.
Russian-born but living in Germany brothers, SOS Junior and Tigran Petrosyan (sons of SOS & Victoria), were introduced as future superstars of magic and each performed their manipulation acts in succession. Tigran opens with a poetic four-ball billiard ball act that includes progressive appearances, vanishes and finally the production of four balls. Finally, the balls are dropped into his hat and promptly magically transform into bits of confetti that flutter to the floor. SOS Junior performed his intense card manipulation act that sees him producing blank cards as well as coloured cards. Starting from a single card multiple vanish/ appearance sequence, the act builds to a flurry of multiple colored card productions and Julianna Chen-inspired card spin production and throws. He ends with a dramatic intense pose that showcases maturity beyond his 16 years of age.
Arguably, the world’s greatest contemporary escape artist based on his sheer body of work, Canadian Dean Gunnerson enthralled the audience with a full-view water drum escape. Assisted by the capable Cary Tardi, who is also a Canadian magician, the escape stunt started with Dean inviting an audience member to thoroughly examine all components of the apparatus and restraints including the steel water drum, lid, handcuffs, chains and locks. The audience obviously loves the interaction Dean has with his volunteer. Performed to a heart-pounding soundtrack, coupled with Chipper providing a countdown, Dean has to hold his breathe underwater and escape from all the restraints and the drum within two minutes. There was always a roar of relief and appreciation when Dean dramatically tosses the lid aside and emerges out of the water-filled drum with a roar. Dean was a well-placed “break” from magic and the presentation created suspense and tension for the audience. Most of the audience members had never seen an escape act live before and found it nail biting and emotional.
Being the grand illusionists for the show, we presented a seamless illusion set comprising of three illusions. We performed our original design for a see-through Sub Trunk called “Crystal Metamorphosis”. This led to ‘Magic Babe’ asserting her presence on the audience by walking into the seated crowd with a giant steel pipe and coaxing a male spectator from his seat. On stage, he got a close up examination of a giant industrial exhaust fan. It tickled the audience (and us) every time the men are so shy next to a sexy strong female. This illusion, entitled “Revollusion”, sees me magically appearing from nowhere with the spinning blades of the fan as a close backdrop. In the final illusion, Ning attempts to escape from a flaming spear after being handcuffed in a small steel box, only to vanish and instantly reappear in the middle of the audience. Incidentally, we have the honor and distinction of being the first Asian magicians ever to perform in the Genting International Showroom.
Armenian & Russian couple, SOS & Victoria showed why they are three-time Guinness World Record holders for the art of quick change. What sets SOS & Victoria apart from other quick change acts is the visual appealing look of the performers and how still Victoria stands for multiple changes. She looks like a stunning Russian supermodel and the costumes look fitting to her body. There are no telltale bulges in her costume and the costumes vary in length, colour and cut, which makes the changes even more baffling. Their final instant white gown change under a shower of silver confetti never fails to get one of the strongest reactions in the show. They were a great act to end the show.
On one Saturday, the producers organized a “Magicians Day” that is a great concept where magicians are invited down on one specific day for an afternoon of lectures, impromptu performances and interaction with the “superstars of magic”. Almost 100 magicians attended the special day with some traveling from the neighboring countries. It was a great experience for all interacting with each other and it gave participants a very complete experience that ended with the show at night.
We started the “Magicians Day” with an abbreviated version of our “3 Sides of Magic” lecture. This was our last stop in Asia for the year before we head to Europe in November for a full month of lecture touring. Nestor and Christian also performed and shared some secrets of their crafts. The incomparable Charlie Frye closed the session with his full lecture that had the audience in the palm of his hand. His perfect combination of juggling, comedy and sleight of hand magic fooled, entertained and had the magician-audience in stitches. For those who only know Charlie for his juggling and stage work will be pleasantly surprised to know what an all-round knowledgeable & technically skilled magician he is.
From a performer’s point of view, the overall experience was enriching and eventful. There were some technical challenges, as artistes, performing for the show. For one, the entire stage was a temporary built one on an ice skating ring (due to a resident ice show that plays in the same theatre). It also did not have a regular proscenium stage but instead an expansion open stage with the wings only very far upstage.
Two major problems surfaced early on in the run. The stage was uneven because it was made of multiple pieces of plywood over a layer of rubber sheet and finally carpet. However, as the ice melted underneath, the plywood pieces became misaligned and water started to seep through, causing the entire stage to be very damp. One of the castors of our fan illusion broke just at the end of the final show… thankfully. However, other performers had shoes, heels, gowns and props ruined because of the uneven stage and water seepage.
Thankfully, the production crew tried to rectify the issues as soon as they could. And, the performers adjusted their acts to work through the issues and still delivered a stellar show.
When speaking to the producer, David Lai, on challenges he faced, he highlighted the need to attend to unexpected staging issues as well as managing the “people aspect” of a entire production and dealing with issues with cast, crew and the show management. I don’t envy his job but experience is a wonderful teacher and we expect next year’s “Superstars of Magic 3” to be even better!
It was a pleasure working with the cast and crew of this production. Feedback from the audience, management, media and producers were excellent. The show received tremendous media coverage starting with Ning’s“Extreme Inversion” stunt held two months prior. We, in particular, were also fortunate for lots of follow up media publicity from Ning’s escape. In the biggest national newspaper, The Star, Ning & I were singled out as a reader’s favourite act! Check out that article HERE.
The show was the highlight of a magic festival organized by Genting that included free public stage shows, street buskers and magic vendors over a 3-week period. The festival gave a great boost to elevate magic in this part of the world and the magic scene will thrive with the continued success of projects like this. Kudos to all parties involved in making “Superstars of Magic” happen!