MAMMA MIA MAGIC The only thing we all had in common was the fact that we all arrived into the Detroit airport and that we are involved in magic. And even our arrivals were different! We were almost all flown in on different airlines and at different times! Who are we? The seven magicians of the INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF MAGIC. A David Belenzon production that was directed by Max Mavin; the list of performers were Aldo Colombini, Billy McComb Jade, Goldfinger and Dove, Peter Pit, Christopher Hart and Nicholas Night with Kinga. Also traveling along with the performers was our production and stage manager To Tobias Beckwith, our lighting director Anthony (Tony Bear) Ruksys, our bus driver Jolly and yours truly (Andy Colombini) who was put in charge of merchandising and ordering pizza for the bus. Our first date was Saturday, February 17th at the Macomb Center (no relation to you know who) in a suburb of Detroit.
When we arrived it was snowing and freezing cold. Don’t forget that all of us are Californians with thin blood for this kind of weather. But this was our first performance and we were excited, so we saved the complaining for later. It was a long, long, long (did I say long)? day of rehearsals with everyone just beginning to learn to work together. Lunch breaks and dinner breaks were forgotten, the lights managed to get lit, the stage got marked, the director directed and believe it or not, the show started on time. It was absolutely wonderful and the performers played to a very responsive sell-out crowd. After the final bow in which all the performers returned to the stage, they filed out to the lobby at each venue to greet their fans and sign autographs. I was selling posters, pictures, magic tricks and kits in the lobby next to the autograph table and what a treat it was to be able to watch the faces of the fans (especially the kids) who could not believe they were able to meet and talk with these famous magicians whom many had only read. There was a four day break after the first show. Some of us returned to California and some of us stayed around in the East, but either way, we met our tour bus at the airport in Baltimore, Maryland and drove to the next venue, the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York, Pennsylvania. There were nine dates in all with the tour ending on Sunday, March 3rd at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx, New York (What an experience for me to wake up on the bus after driving all night, look out the window and see 12 foot fences around topped with barbed wire! Peter Pitt said that for just a moment, he thought we were in a concentration camp!)
There is no way I could adequately put into words what it was like traveling on a tour bus with all of us. First of all, the bus slept 12. Now when most people hear the word sleep, they think of a bed. Probably all I need to tell you is that my husband called the bunks sleeping coffins. They were stacked three high, the bottom bunk being at floor level so you had to crawl on your hands and knees and sort of roll into it. The middle was OK but you needed to be a monkey to climb up into the top ones so we made the youngest and most agile of the group sleep up on top. At one point I heard Christopher Hart say that with the bus rocking and turning corners, he couldn’t sleep because he had to hold on for dear life or he would roll out of his bunk onto the floor!
We had nights when we could not sleep because the bus was rocking and rumbling. We had some hotels with no restaurants so after working 6-7 hours there was nothing to eat. We had performances on the weekends at University campuses where the restaurants were closed. We had nights when we had to be on the bus immediately after packing up the show for a five or six hour ride to our next city and there was no food on the bus, but we also had some great times, great shows and yes, some very nice dinners in wonderful little towns. Except for the audience (which I think was too old to hear the acts) the response was positive and tremendous. Many of the venues were sold out and some of the houses held 1,000 to 1,200 spectators. We had pizza parties on the bus, sometime to go antique shopping and a couple of days off in Portsmouth, N.H., where we found a great lobster restaurant and had dinner. All ***** we made new friends and deepened old friendships. We told jokes, complained and shared safety pins and make-up. We had microphones that didn’t work, lights that didn’t always light, good backstage crews and some that couldn’t read or write.
All in all, we got along well and if there was a misunderstanding or two, we worked it out. We had a bit of snow in the beginning and a two-day storm at the end, but mostly we were lucky with unseasonably warm weather. Aldo was emcee for the first half which opened with Christopher Hart. Billy McComb followed and then Goldfinger and Dove did the second half of their act bringing Aldo out onto the stage on one of their props to announce the intermission. The second half was emceed by Billy McComb and starred Jade, Aldo and then Nicholas Night and Kinga closed the show. All the acts were spectacular and wonderfully entertaining. Well just remembering this trip makes me tired. It took me a week to recuperate and I didn’t even perform. Of course I did set up the concession stand, sell and then pack it all up again. And, I’m getting old as well so I guess I have reason to be tired. But if Aldo is asked to do it again and they want me to help out and handle the merchandising again, my answer would be, “Yeah”.
Now over to Aldo: Aldo speaking now. What can I add? This was my first tour of this sort in the States. It is very, very, very, different from any Italian one; mainly because it worked! Beside the reverse vampire experience (going into the coffin at midnight and making our appearance at the rise of the sun), to me this tour was a wonderful (though tiring) experience. Above all I had the opportunity to meet and know people and make new friends (the best magic trick ever created!) I think it was an interesting mix of people (a real mixed salad) put together by David and Max along with a lot of dressing (including some pepper, if you know what I mean!) You may think, WOULD YOU DO IT AGAIN? There is no need to think in capitol letters but, yes. Andie and I will be ready. Coffin……wait for me ……Count Aldo Draculini is coming. I love working in theaters. The theater is like my home. Until I find an apartment!