Three More Virtual Magic Shows That Really Delivered The Goods.

In America, there is always a multitude of magic shows to attend over Halloween. However, just because live entertainment has ground to a rusty halt, it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t still a wide choice of magical shows to choose from. This year, over the holiday, we watched three different magical shows which is at least two more than any other Halloween in recent years. One good thing about Zoom shows is that they are mighty easy to attend, that and not having to shave to attend.

The virtual Zoom shows that Susan and I participated in over the holiday weekend were the AMA (Magic Castle) Halloween Show hosted by Todd Robbins, The Raven and Migz Halloween Zoom Magic Show, and Justin Willman’s Magic For Humans@Home Virtual Halloween Show. I’m going to break down the three events, and also give some of my thoughts about the strengths and potential weakness of Zoom style magic shows. I think it is apparent that this performance format is not going to be going away anytime soon. While the end of the worldwide COVID crisis will provide a welcome return to live entertainment, the seamless way virtual shows can cater to non-local audiences is a strong selling point. The ease and relatively low production budgets of Zoom shows are another reason that virtual shows should stick around for the foreseeable future.

Helder Guimarães’ The Present, gave a clear example of how financially successful the blend of close-up magic and theatrical presentation can be. During a limited run, the show brought in an estimated 700,000 dollars according to Geffen Executive Director Gil Cates Jr. This is a truly eye-opening figure. Of course, that number is not representative of the actual fee paid to Helder, who was essentially helping to support an entire theater/theater staff with his project. I have no idea how much money Justin Willman raised this Halloween with his three days of multiple shows, but I suspect it was a great deal. We caught one of the four shows he streamed on Friday, October 30th, and during this single show, 820 people were in virtual attendance. At 25 bucks a household, unless my arithmetic is too faulty, that is about 18,000 dollars for just this single performance. Yikes! No wonder Willman has already got multiple Thanksgiving shows lined up. A guest shot on The Ellen Show must have been a real boost to Justin’s numbers in addition to the fans of his Netflix magic show who also tuned in. 

Let me begin by saying that I enjoyed Justin’s show enormously. It was lively, funny, entertaining, and highly successful on every level. In particular, the virtual audience management was exemplary throughout the 75-minute event. The 30-minute pre-show Halloween costume/dance party that preceded the show was a delight all on its own. In the depth of the current pandemic, it was a tonic just to see so many families having such an uninhibitedly good time. Family is the keyword in describing the focus of Willman’s show. The magic was simple enough for youngsters to fully enjoy, and just as importantly no adult watching the show was made to feel they were attending a kid show. There was no attempt to present the show as a “theater event,” it was simply a compilation of fast-paced and visually interesting pieces of magic. On this level, it hit the bullseye big time.

A large part of the show’s success was the immensely likable personality of Justin Willman himself. Willman’s timing is immaculate, and his sense of pacing kept the show moving at a tempo that effortlessly carried the audience along for the ride.  Did any of the magic Willman performed in the show amaze me? Well, not really but then I am a magician. I did enjoy every single effect and was tickled by many of the subtle touches that Justin added to the routines. These tricks were treats, and commercial gems one and all.

Like Guimarães’ show, Willman’s production was geared to gather strength with its “filmed in the performer’s home” immediacy. I would be remiss if I failed to mention how much Justin’s interaction with his virtual assistants added to the audience’s enjoyment. He is a witty performer who thinks on his feet and mixes vulnerability with cheery confidence that quickly wins over his audience. If I sound like a fan, it’s because I am. A few years back we caught Justin performing a one-hour live show, and maybe what impressed me most with his virtual show was how deftly he re-created that live experience for his new Zoom market. This was a great family show and also a real bargain with its 25 dollar ticket.

On Halloween night, after the socially distanced dispensing of some candy to neighborhood kids, we settled down to watch our second Halloween show. The Academy of Magic Arts has made a stalwart attempt to present virtual events for its members while our legendary clubhouse has been shuttered. The Board of Directors and trustees have done a wonderful job of adding some extra bang for our membership bucks. As an out-of-town member, I am particularly appreciative of everything they have done in this area and want to give a special shout-out to Max Maven, Jonathan Levitt, and John Carney who have spearheaded this effort. Halloween is probably the most exciting of all Magic Castle holidays, and attempting to replace it with a virtual event is a pretty daunting undertaking. Todd Robbins and his band of friends gave it a darn good shot and deserve much credit for their achievement.

The AMA Halloween show was hosted by mega-talented Todd Robbins from his desk/office in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen region. Robbins’ lair managed to look more like a Zoom set than most Zoom backgrounds achieve. With his amiably distracted, and slightly sinister eccentricity, Todd performed some magic, told a true ghost story, and hosted the show in fine style. In what seemed to be mostly pre-recorded sets, the show featured segments by a talented cast of performers. Alex Boyce, Jeanette Andrews, Christian Cagigal, and Mark Calabrese all contributed fine magic to the festivities. From my personal viewpoint, the two major standouts in the show were the charmingly chilling vocal styling of Liberty Larsen singing Pirate Jenny and the excellent mentalism of Jason Suran. Both of these performers added a great deal of texture and variety to the production.

I understand the temptation of mixing pre-recorded segments into a live Zoom show, however, in my estimation, it is something of a double-ended stick. Part of the charm of a Zoom show is some of the rough edges and real-time feel. Like most virtual shows I feel the material could have been edited a little more tightly, as video minutes seem to play longer than they do during live performance. The show was a splendid consolation prize for those of us who didn’t get to perform a Halloween gig or visit the Castle. Thank you Todd for a fine show and enjoyable event, it was overwhelmingly enjoyed and appreciated by the AMA membership.

On the Sunday after Halloween, We got to eat some leftover candy while watching The Raven & Migz Halloween Zoom Show 2020. I was impressed by the sophistication that Richard (Raven) Lake brought to the technical aspect of his streaming broadcast. Many cool and effective video effects were on display during the 80-minute show, some jumped out and hit you in the face, while others were more subtle. The show is a nice example of how to apply some special effects and technical pizzazz to make your show stand out. Check the show out for yourself on YouTube at

 https://tinyurl.com/y3qhvt3b

Raven & Migz ( Richard Lake and Miguel Rangel) are a popular Los Angeles magic/mentalism duo that has a unique sense of timing and rhythm which results in a very entertaining two man team. Their performance personas gel in a very interesting manner, and I look forward to seeing where they take their magic show next. The show features guest stars Rich Hurley, Chris Herren as Faust, and veteran pro-performer Rick Gerber. All the magicians did a great job of creating and performing strong magic with some nice twists. The show would probably have been even stronger with some tighter editing of the material featured. In contemporary television, most guest slots are limited to a rapid-fire two-minute guest set, which is something all Zoom shows must become very aware of. However, a fine time was had by performers and viewers alike. If you want to catch Richard Lake’s ongoing Zoom shows you can find listings for them at https://tinyurl.com/yyassrvr I don’t think you will be sorry!

It is fascinating to see how magicians are adapting to the current phase of the worldwide pandemic. Zoom technology is now a very real part of every magician’s professional vocabulary, it seems amazing that back in January of 2020 almost no one had any idea of what it was! Always remember that Charles Darwin didn’t really talk about survival of the fittest, instead he actually referenced the survival of the most adaptable.   

~ by Nick Lewin on December 16, 2020.

One Response to “Three More Virtual Magic Shows That Really Delivered The Goods.”

  1. Magic has always helped me get out of many stressful situations. I always explore more magic whenever I feel low or when I am stressed. I love to explore various types of magic around and enjoy its feel. This virtual magic shows that you have shared will be helpful for me in exploring some new magic tricks. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Leave a Reply

 
%d bloggers like this: