|Next the show features a new illusion IÃll call Ã¬Printing Press.Ã® A pedestal table is center stage. From the wings, the cast brings Prospero a large Gutenberg style press. The press is hinged open and a girl lays directly under the press. The press presses and the girl is now two-dimensional and etched on canvas. The process is reversed and the painting Ã¬American GothicÃ® is shown and placed under the press. This time the canvas is wiped clean as the press is raised and there stand the farmer, his wife AND the pitchfork in person. This gets a tremendous reaction and is almost my personal favorite illusion in the show. |
| || |
Prospero pulls a lady from a painting, picks her up and causes her to float horizontally. She floats 360 degrees around him. The lady is covered with a sheet and she rises 20 feet in the air (via ashra). Prospero levitates himself straight up behind her for one of the most spectacular sights of the show. When he touches back down, both feet on the stage, he reaches up and pulls the cloth away. She vanishes in the time-honored tradition. Walking back to the empty frame, he’d whirls the cloth in front of it and her image reappears.
A ballerina takes the stage, as our character assistants bring on an ErtÃ decorated prop. The ballerina is placed on the table and inside the box. What ensues is a sort of thin model sawing in half. Except in this one, the leg box is opened up and the bottom-half of the ballerina dances across the stage by itself. Meanwhile, the torso section is brought to rest on a swing and our legless girl swings back and forth for all to see. This is quite an incredible sight and I tip my hat to Bill Smith for making such a wonderful routine come to life. The legs dance over to meet the torso and the two are once more joined.
In the next segment we are treated to a dancing handkerchiefs routine with Beethoven himself conducting the music. During all of the preceding show, Morty the workman taunts Prospero with a poster of his promised water torture cell escape. Once again the magician turns the tables and invites Morty to entertain the audience. For the next ten minutes, we are treated to a fine example of European clowning. Morty turns out to be quite a talented mime, juggler and all-around funny guy. No words are spoken during his turns, which is not surprising considering our entertainer truly speaks only a few words of English.
A beautiful illusion is performed which they call “Silhouette.” The cast performs sensuous choreography as Prospero demonstrates the art of origami. He walks behind an oriental screen and places a folded piece of paper behind it. Amazingly we see the shadow of the paper unfold and grow and form itself into the silhouette of a young lady. Prospero reaches his hand toward the shadow and pulls a very real girl onto the stage. Another assistant steps behind the screen and soon her shadow takes the shape of a bouquet of flowers. The screen is removed and flowers are presented to the first young lady.
Prospero and Morty have a fencing match. And just when we think that perhaps Morty has the upper hand, Prospero stands in Morty’s shoes, having magically change places. Following this is the routine called “art attack.” Using the sheets we were given upon entering the theater, we are instructed to let our fingers do the walking, first to a painting, then a composer and then another painting. The instructions are sung to the melodies of several operas. Where our collective fingers stop there’s a playing card on the opposite side of the page. A giant easel that rotates 360 degrees is brought onstage; the cast proceeds to sing while painting a 12 ft. tall portrait. When the backdrop is raised we discover that the portrait matches the Ã¬courtlyÃ® identity of the card we all chose.
Prospero can no longer duck Morty’s insistence to see the water torture cell. Prospero is chained and lowered into the tank. The entire cast gathers around as the curtains are raised. Tension builds, until they lower the curtains and we see Prospero continue to struggle. The curtains are raised once more, yet in what seems like a few seconds the curtain drops again; Prospero has vanished. From the middle of the room we hear the call Ã¬C’est Magique!Ã® All turn to see Prospero in middle of the theater, dripping wet. Prospero makes his way to the stage during a huge amount of applause. The cast join him for the curtain call.
The show is without a doubt the most beautiful magic show I have ever seen. The richness and texture of the show is quite palpable. The London Symphony performed the music score. The sets call to mind a fine museum. The costumes are a picture of elegance. And the illusions are not only innovative but look like something other than magicians’ props.
The show still has some growing pains. Disney’s insistence to have the show look nothing like a traditional magic show (read Las Vegas glitz) they have given up some of the wisdom gained the hard way. For instance the floating ball and dancing handkerchiefs are staged in front of a light colored background. The modus is needlessly exposed. From the last report I heard, the dancing handkerchiefs routine was being cut from the show.
Washington D.C. based magician Joe Romano has played the part of Prospero. Romano is an illusionist with great deal of experience in theme parks. He worked for Paul Osborne Productions before producing his own shows for attractions such as Six Flags and Universal Studios. Joe is also amazingly successful at producing themed shows for the public schools.
Joe Romano has done a wonderful job portraying the magician and learning this complex show. Unfortunately, JoeÃs contract is over and an actor, not a magician, has replaced him. Without a magicianÃs trained eye on the job, I worry about the life of the show.
Cruise lines have been producing illusion shows for several years now. Few have been successful. It is my opinion that winning shows have less to do with spectacular illusions and more to do with compelling characters. Most of the cruise industryÃs attempts at a magic show are production show revues. A lot of singing and dancing around an impersonal parade of magic effects. Instead, Disney Cruise LinesÃ model for CÃest Magique was Cirque du Soleil. While this avoided many of the traps from which the revue style shows suffer, I believe a great magic show requires a strong personality to drive it.
I am in no way criticizing the performer in the show, rather the way the role is written. As I understand it, we are to believe that we are seeing the ghosts in the machines. Prospero is a phantasm, not a time traveler. The audience witnesses the spirit of Prospero, and so the writers reason he should not actually interact with those watching. While that may be reasonable, they do not bridge the void with character. Cirque du Soleil works as a spectacle with interchangeable acrobatic acts. It is my hypothesis however, that a show made up of illusions needs a main character people relate to or care about.
Nevertheless, if ever there was a company that can make a success out of a cruise ship magic production, Disney is the one. They are making changes and adjustments continuously so the final product may not yet be on stage. Ultimately, there is much to love about the show, particularly the elegant illusions, the dignity of the approach to our art; the music, sets and costumes are of the highest standard.