[ATTENDED: October 13, 2012] Spencers: Theatre of Illusion
This past summer, we purchased some subscriptions to many performances coming up at Raritan Valley Community College Last year I was impressed by the quality of the performances our little community college attracted, and again, this year, the stars are coming out!
We started off our series with this show, a family entertainment (although honestly going until 9 was a little long for Tabitha. It did say that it was recommended for slightly older kids, although this wasn’t so much content as the pacing and lateness of the show).
The Spencers have a fascinating back story (told in the programme and during the show). Kevin Spencer always wanted to be a magician. Doug Hennig was a huge inspiration. At some point in his career he was in a car accident and it changed the nature of his show (although we never learn what the act used to be like).
His new show reminds me a lot of Doug Hennig (whom I remember from when I was a kid, but who I don’t know all that much about. I remember him being sweet and goofy with crazy hair and a penchant for saying “illooooooooosion”). The entire Spencer show is slow-paced, with anecdotes and stories accompanying the bits. It’s quite a change from most of the fast-paced, electrifying shows we’ve seen. I found it to be a rather refreshing change and the kids didn’t seem to mind too, much, although I’m sure they would have loved a few more illusions.
The opening one, in which he tore a copy of the Star Ledger in pieces and then reassembled it was very cool. I have no idea how he did it. But he began the illusion by “reading” the paper to “establish” that it was today’s paper–certainly an indication of the pacing of the show. But he also spent a lot of time talking about the difference between reality and illusion, which I rather enjoyed.
Much of the show consisted of very old-school magic–a woman (his wife) in a box that gets separated into segments–logically I know there’s an illusion here and yet I couldn’t see it–he did a great job. Later he did a similar one in which he stuck his head and hand through the opening where he wife’s head should be. It was very cool.
The audience participated a lot–a woman had rings placed through her arm (this one I think was easy to figure out); a boy had spikes go through his chest (the kids loved this one). And a man assisted for the Houdini trick. I recently read an article about Houdini but I did not hear about this trick, which Spencer said was a show-stopper. He is in an enclosed box with cinder blocks separating one side from the other. He passes through the blocks and comes out the other side. It was very impressive, even as he downplayed the “reality” of the trick.
Our favorite tricks involved the full audience In the first, he read the minds of three people–this was very cool. And in the final, he had a light-up board in which the audience (in their minds) moved from one city to another on a nine-panel grid. We all ended up in the same city. I’m sure this was a simple mathematical trick, but it was done very well.
There weren’t too many “dangerous” tricks, although the finale was one where he pushed himself through rotating fan blades. I feel like this was the easiest trick to spot how it worked, and it kind of left me a little underwhelmed as a finale. Especially since there were three tricks that were incredibly “simple” but were so effective.
He did one with a Chinese box that fit inside the box that was inside of it–mind-blowing (possibly very easy, but he performed it perfectly). The Australian pom pom stick–again, very simple and utterly mind-blowing. And finally, a simple one with bottle and glasses that, even if I know how he did some of it, I couldn’t figure it all out and he did an amazing job with it.
His stage manner was great–a little goofy and self-deprecating, never loud. A few times I could have used him to hurry up a bit, and I could have done with out a little of the “reach for your dreams” business, but it is a family show, so it’s forgiven. The strangest thing about the show was the styling. His shirt–where does one even get oddly sequined shirts like that–was spectacularly “magical.” Is there a magician’s clothing store? And what was with the music? “Weird Science?” That song from The Lost Boys “Cry Little Sister?” Are magicians banned from using songs less than 30 years old? At times it felt very Gob from Arrested Development. Especially during the finale when he waved his arms around on top of the fan (at least he didn’t play “The Final Countdown”).
But all in all, the magic was great. And yes, cheese is part of magic, it’s part of the fun. And we all really enjoyed our first night of theater together.