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The International Brotherhood of Magicians

11 Aug

Review of first two 'Masters of Illusion' 2014 shows

Category: News   Posted by: C. DENNIS SCHICK

The latest version of Masters of Illusion began Friday, August 1. It aired on the CW Network, starting at 8 pm EDT (7 Central). The host is Dean Cain, best known for his role as Superman in the television series Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. He also starred in Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Las Vegas.


The series this year will have thirteen episodes, each thirty minutes long. This is in contrast to earlier shows which were longer. Of course this means fewer commercials and interruptions, surely welcomed by viewers.


The CW Network may be hard to find in some markets, because it may not be identified as such and just uses local call letters. Go to for a list of stations in your zip code which carry the network’ shows. (Incidentally, that network also is carrying the new Fool Us magic show from Penn & Teller on Wednesday evenings.)


The first show, August 1 was a fast-paced show with little chitchat, and featured eight tightly-packed and edited acts.  JAN ROUVEN was chained to a large wooden bean by two women. A curtain dropped, and as soon as one of the women walked behind the curtain, out popped Jan, who pulled back the curtain to reveal the woman chained like he was. Wham, bam. Great opening.


Quick fire cut to Cain, with no pause for applause or crowd reaction. On with the show. Cain introduced a skit from JARRETT & RAJA. A man (Raja Rahman) playing a grand piano is interrupted by another man (Jarrett Parker) with a chainsaw. His two assistants don’t want to be cut in half, so they point to the piano player, who becomes the victim. He lies down with no box or other cover, and the chainsaw “looks” like it cuts Raja in half at the waist. His upper torso is pulled away to prove it (no box, no cover). Then the two sections of table are pulled apart, for a double shocker. Raja (an accomplished pianist), is pushed over to the piano, where he plays it upside down, so he is happy. He is then put back together, for a happy ending. They played the whole act for laughs, and there were plenty. Very nice illusion, an old classic with several new twists.


After six short (thirty-seconds or less) commercials, Dean is back to introduce the incomparable red-coated MICHAEL FINNEY, who performs his wildly-popular set, which always gets huge laughs no matter how many times you have seen it -- his jumbo card to regular deck gag, followed by his hilarious card-on-forehead bit. Want to have a successful magic show? Add Michael Finney.


After another ten short commercials, NATHAN BURTON is on screen a total of forty seconds. He shows a huge empty rotating glass box, drops a curtain, then quickly pulls it away to reveal four scantily-clad showgirls. Wow. Where did THEY come from? Short and sweet and amazing!


Michael GRANDINETTI is next. He puts a beautiful assistant in a box with six sections. Then he manipulates the doors and panels leaving the girl in only one small box. Of course he puts her back together and all is well. Throughout I thought of a vertical Origami. Nice illusion nicely done.


JONATHAN PENDRAGON shows what looks like a miniature stage, pulls down a door revealing a cat. Off goes the cat, followed by the same appearance of a dog) both received audience aahs), and then the same for a beautiful girl. This was the tamest (and weakest) of all the eight illusions, and was just okay. Maybe it was put in for the kids and the “cute” factor. 


ROB LAKE walked a beautiful blond up stairs to a VERY deep cage, covers it with a cloth, and then whisks it away to reveal a Bengal tiger, as the stairs are taken away. Again, very tame, but big cats are always popular. (Did they not think we saw big the cage was?)


After six more commercials, the concluding act gave the show its name -- “Jaws of Death.” SPENCER HORSMAN was laced up in a straitjacket and suspended between two huge metal “jaws.” A burning rope added the suspense. Of course he escaped as the jaws came crashing together, to a standing ovation.


Overall, it was a terrific start for the new series. All of the eight acts were entertaining in their own way, comedy and laughter were frequent, and the wonder of magic kept its good name -- and maybe even moved a notch or two higher. The fast pace was exhilarating, although leaving little time to catch your breath and think about what you just saw. You need to record it and watch it a second time. I look forward to the entire series. Glad to have it back.


(Incidentally, why not pass the word to all your friends and relatives about the show, and where to find it? The bigger the audience, the more likely there will be more magic shows on television. Remember the old David Copperfield television specials? How long has it been? Or the regular David Blaine and Criss Angel specials? Even the World Magic Awards were fun to watch -- and they were even benefits for good causes, too.)




The following week -- August 8 -- the second show appeared, same time, same station. This time there were only six acts instead of eight because several of them took more time for their set-ups. 


Act one: MICHAEL GILES performed a standard “Metamorphosis,” exchanging places with a pretty girl. The girl changed dresses (style and color) while in the bag but it all happened so quickly some audience members may not have noticed. Always impressive, but somewhat tame when you’ve seen it so many times before.


Up next was a returning magician from week one, ROB LAKE. He asked all males in the audience to stand and threw two Frisbees out into the audience. The men who caught them came to the stage to help. Lake climbs stairs to a box on a platform and got in. Then -- a nice twist -- the VOLUNTEERS got to insert long swords into the box. When the swords were removed, a girl was inside, and Lake appeared from the back. Again, a classic illusion nicely done.


After some commercials (six or so short ones), MICHAEL GRANTINETTI brought three women volunteers to the stage, who gave up their diamond rings. The magi put the rings in a tissue, and then set them on fire, leaving ashes to give to the women. (One did not look amused!) Then they all gathered around a crystal box in which there was a dozen baked dinner rolls with a ribbon sticking out of each end. Two of the women held the ends of the ribbon while he broke open the buns. There strung on the ribbon were the three rings. Astonishing! Very well done and received.  


After ten more commercials (thankfully all short), RICK THOMAS popped in for another shortie (maybe sixty seconds). A contraption on a thin platform looked like a big quarter of a circle (straight on two sides and round on the third side. A girl got in it and Thomas moved a lever up to the top, reducing the space to almost nothing. After that sunk in (“Where’d she GO?”), he moved the lever back down and the girl got out. That was it. Not quite up to Rick Thomas standards, but mystifying anyway. 


ERIX LOGAN was next, with a standard suspension illusion. But his apparatus was an original -- a huge (five-feet tall) pair of scissors. He “hypnotized” his assistant, and held her on top of the blades, where she balanced. Then he removed each of the blades, one at a time, leaving her suspended. After putting back each of the blades, he removed her and brought her back from her trance, all smiles. Nice prop and twist to a familiar illusion.


Lastly, AARON CROW came on as a sinister-looking mystic, with a stern stare. He brought to the stage three volunteers (with that look you couldn’t refuse). One was positioned to hold a paper bag with something in it; a second held a board vertically in front of him; and the third (a woman) had a watermelon balanced on her head. He then went to great lengths to “blindfold” himself: first by taking a burning candle and dripping melted wax on his face and eyes (shocking, with appropriate audience noises); then cloth wound around his head; followed by wide, black tape; and finally a sheet of aluminum foil wrapping his entire head. Talk about overkill! So then he turns to the right, takes out a dagger and plunges it into the bag, spilling rice (or something) out. Turning to the board, he pulls out his nunchuck and splits the board in two. Finally, he turns toward the woman and takes a swing with his sword, slicing through the watermelon, to wild applause from the audience. They seem to like the violence and action.


Another fast-paced thirty minutes of magic illusions, tightly edited and ably narrated by Dean Cain. We expect to see some of the same magicians from the first two shows in later shows during the season. Nice job. A tip of ye ole top hat to all involved.


Listed in the closing credits were: Al Schwarz and David Martin as Executive Producers; Gay Blackstone as Executive Producer and Magic Coordinator; Justin Pierce as Co-Executive Producer; Dan Goldman and Brad Thomas as Producers; and Chris Merrill as Director.

     Tune in EVERY Friday to see more. Tape them to watch over and over, and with your family and friends.

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