MMF 2017: Tay’s Top Ten Shows

Now that the MMF has come and gone for another year, it’s time for my annual listing of my Top Shows. Usually it will be a top five, but given I saw a total of 33 shows this year (breaking my own personal record of 23 shows seen during an MMF) I’ve expanded the listing this year to be my TOP TEN shows of the MMF. I should mention that this list isn’t numbered – far too difficult to nominate a clear winner given so many different magic and performance styles!¬† I’ve also added a couple of ‘honourable¬† mentions’ at the bottom of the list.

If you ever have the chance to see any of the performers listed below, then do take that chance and watch their shows – they’re all in the TOP TEN for a reason.

Joshua Jay – affable storyteller, and took the audience on such a fun journey

The Ladies’ Guide to Deceit and Debauchery (performed by Carisa Hendrix) – my enjoyment of this show is testament to me attending twice, and I’m fairly sure all my friends heard my ridiculous laugh during this show. Magical, theatrical and so much more. An unexpected festival highlight, that has left me with cherished memories!

E.G. Lee – magic that was dazzling, poetic and sublime. An exciting show with a stirring finale.

Dani DaOrtiz – simply the god of cards.

Tim Credible’s Family Magic Show (performed by Tim You) – a polished performer and highly enjoyable show with many highlights

Mick TrickSTAR Tricky Extravaganza (performed by Micky TrickSTAR) – a festival newcomer with an exciting and hilarious show. The kids’ show that held the most laughs for me.

Comic Conjurors in ‘Despicable’ (performed by Lawson Reeves and Josh Staley) – clever and comical magic, and an unexpected highlight for me. Keen to see them perform again.

I Love Magic (performed by Anthony DeMasi) – assorted feats of magic, and the opportunity for some bunny cuddles make this a highly enjoyable show. It had so many great moments!

Gone Girl by ‘Dom and Dumber’ (performed by Dom Chambers and Bayden Hammond) – best theatrical magic show I have seen yet! A show bursting with comedy, movie references and plenty of surprises and magic. I left wanting more.

The Fairy Magic Show (performed by Lee Cohen) – an annual highlight that I hope doesn’t go unnoticed in the programme. So much fun to forget being an adult for a while and step into Fairy Lee’s whimsically enchanting world. Always makes me smile.

Honourable mentions:
Things By Simon (performed by Simon Coronel) – continually raising the bar (or wand?!) for sophisticated and surprising magic.

Lawrence Leung’s Very Strange Things (performed by Lawrence Leung) – unusual yet very entertaining magic. This show has elements that make me think and that linger long after the show has gone (it has already been a week and this show is still on my mind!)

Thanks to all the performers, festival organisers and directors, and staff that all contributed to making this the best MMF I’ve attended and one that has left me with so many awesome memories. Every day I felt so lucky.

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MMF 2017 Mini Review: ‘Best of The Fest’ – Final Show Edition

So, we’re coming to the end of my MMF 2017 Mini Reviews….thanks to all those who’ve been regular readers and those that have stopped by to read my blog. One of my long standing traditions of the MMF is to attend the last ‘Best of the Fest’ show each year. Host Nicholas J Johnson goes out of his way to cram in so many performers into the last show that it ends up being a madcap display of swift magic, set in a crazy ‘race against the clock’. Whereas most ‘Best of the Fest’ editions have a host and 3 performers, the last ‘Best of the Fest’ includes any performers Nicholas can encourage / bribe / coerce to be on stage.

Naturally there are way too many individual performers to mention here, however there were some outstanding performers: newly crowned Australian Junior Champion of BOTH Stage and Close-Up magic, Prue Spencer, treated the audience to an entertaining card routine; David Chandler returned with his whimsical routine with an assistant from the audience (who was charmingly getting into the spirit of the routine); and special appearances by festival organisers Tim Ellis and Lee Cohen. ‘Simon and Davefunkel’ teamed up to wow the audience with their usual flair and comedy, and the show even had performers (like ‘Dom and Dumber’)racing from their just finished shows to treat the audience to something speedy and surprising.

MVP of the night went to the elusive “Gary the Magician” who is also known as Nicholas J Johnson’s nemesis! Nicholas couldn’t be in the room while Gary was performing which was a huge shame, as Gary had my boyfriend and I (along with other audience members I’m sure) in fits of laughter. There was one point where I was crying with laughter up in the back row of the theatre – Gary’s witty rejoinders and candor with his audience helpers became too much for me to handle. Gary’s exuberance over presenting his card magic to the audience, mixed with him feigning indifference the next moment made for so many pieces of pure comedy gold. I hadn’t seen Gary the magician perform before now, however he helped make the night shine and I sincerely hope to watch him perform again!

The final ‘Best of the Fest’ always ends with a story told via playing cards, and like every other year that I’ve seen it, this highlight endures. Each story has a theme provided by the audience, and it’s such a special routine as there are many points where both performers and audience members have no idea in which direction the story will end up. Despite fatigue setting for some performers, this final show has it’s own charm and that’s part of the appeal – you never know who is going to appear next!

MMF 2017 Mini Review: ‘Lawrence Leung’s Very Strange Things’

Nearing the end of my MMF jaunt of 33 magic shows in two weeks (HA!), I was particularly keen to see Lawrence Leung’s show. Not only had I heard great things about this show, but I’d missed previous iterations of it in other festivals so I was determined not to miss out this time!

The theatre was packed – Lawrence clearly has many fans, and being known in various different media formats and circles (TV, science, pop culture to name a few) – no doubt assists this. Lawrence appeared to raptuous applause and opened his show with some jokes, in his usual affable style. I didn’t know quite what to expect during this show, but I was pleased to find it contained much magic and mystery alongside some elements of psychology. At times the show was part magic, part educational as Lawrence mentioned psychological theories along with theories on the ‘seances’ of older times (far too much detail to discuss here). In terms of the magical portions of the evening, they were often displayed as mysteries – like being able to decipher the passcode on someone’s phone and some (zener) card predictions, and even magic with a Rubik’s cube.

If you’re thinking that a show about mysteries and psychology would get a bit ‘dry’ / boring / too much like a lecture then you’d be 100% WRONG regarding this show! Aside from Lawrence seemingly like one the friendliest performers, the audience were also treated to some hilarious ‘throwback’ pictures of a younger Lawrence. So refreshing to see someone being able to laugh at themselves in front of a large audience. Coupled with some unintended comedic pieces involving an audience member’s phone, this show did have some great laughs.

At points during the show, Lawrence mentioned being ‘skeptic but not cynical’ which I liked and thought it’s a clever way to look at magic too because I’m sure cynics wouldn’t end up getting value from a magic show. I enjoyed Lawrence’s comments regarding mystery, and I’m a self confessed lover of mystery so I thoroughly enjoyed that piece of the show. Lawrence’s show ended with some powerful effects that left many audience members gasping, alongside plenty of applause and cheers for what was an immensely enjoyable show. This was a very strange magic show in some ways but that made it more wonderful too.

MMF 2017 Mini Review: ‘Rockstar Magic Revisited’ Performed by John Fung

I had previously seen short performances from John Fung, however he seems to be regularly travelling so once I heard he’d be back in Melbourne I was extra keen to see his show.

John’s magic was classy and often very mystifying – magic occurred with an assortment of objects such as money, cards, cutlery and rings. John at times seemed like a ‘James Bond’ character – sharply dressed and debonair with a silver suitcase on stage – which he used to his advantage, charming and astounding the audience. John regularly selected people from the audience to help him – whether it was to inspect objects or make some selections for predictions to come. The audience members themselves seemed to be from a mix of different countries, which added to the ‘International feel’ of the evening. This international theme was also incorporated into the final prediction of the show, which I thought was a nice touch.

Whilst my expectations for this show were different to what I experienced (I’d expected the flashy routines set to music that I’d seen from John in the past), I was impressed with his rapport with the audience and I left the show feeling entertained and happy.

MMF 2017 Mini Review: ‘Tim Credible’s Family Magic Show’

Tim Credible (magician Tim You) is undoubtedly one of the hardest working local magicians I’ve come across. Each MMF he has a family magic show on each morning (in the earliest timeslot!) and often runs a magic school session for budding magicians after the show. I felt most privileged and excited to attend his family magic show this year, in fact this is the first time EVER that I’ve been able to watch his full show so I was beaming as I walked into the theatre.

With little magic fans sitting up the front on donut shaped cushions, and (ahem) older audience members sitting up the back of the theatre, Tim welcomed the audience to his show. Dressed in a smart ensemble featuring primary colours, Tim showed off some hat juggling to get everyone in the mood for a fun show. Having performed countless magic shows, it was obvious that Tim is a polished performer – he knew which comedy lines and jokes would make his audience laugh and how best to direct his special helpers from the audience in order to create some special magic. Personal show highlights for me included magic that I’ve seen at plenty of other shows (rope magic, magic with a special bag) however none of those effects quite had the same magical elements previously as when Tim Credible performed them for he imparts his own fantastic and playful personality into his magic of course. Another highlight was that the audience got to meet some of Tim’s VERY talented animal friends. I even had the rare chance to meet one of Tim’s animal friends up close on stage – a memory that I will cherish!

This show is your best bet if you’re after some ‘tried and tested’ solid family entertainment. Both young children and adults are involved at various times during the show, whether it is wiggling fingers or having the chance to be involved in some magic on stage. Nothing is cheap or tacky, and everything is glorious in its flawlessness. The magic and comedy flow so seamlessly that I couldn’t quite believe it when the show was over, it certainly left me wanting to see more. If you have the chance to see a show by Tim Credible (whether at the MMF or at another event at another time), take that chance and please do see it!

Note: I attended this show as a Tim’s guest.

MMF 2017 Mini Review: ‘Gone Girl’

Dom Chambers and Bayden Hammond are the comedy magic duo ‘Dom and Dumber’ and since they burst onto the magic scene roughly a year ago, they’ve been successfully shaking up the concept of a traditional magic show. Each are magicians, able to hold their own in separate shows however when their powers are combined something special happens – put a magician and a comedian into a blender, and ‘Dom and Dumber’ will likely be the result!*

One thing to expect from a ‘Dom and Dumber’ show is plenty of theatrical magic, and their show “Gone Girl” was no different. The storyline was that Dom’s dog had been dognapped and the audience had the special privilege to be taken along for the (very) magical ride as Dom sought to be reunited with his precious pooch. I find it so refreshing that the variety of scenes in this show meant that I had no idea what was around each corner and that was thrilling! Without giving too much away, the show has a wild cast of characters and set locations along with some hilariously magical scenes. Many of the stories are parodies of scenes from popular movies, so it was easy to follow along with the story. There are a couple of scenes where it looks like Dom has hit some trouble, and those were the scenes where I laughed the most during the show (sorry Dom!). Those facial expressions get me every time.

In a world where magic shows can sometimes get a little stuffy and dated, ‘Dom and Dumber’ are the heroes, shaking up the ordinary and the expected. This time, I got so taken by the storyline that I actually forgot what city I was in when I left the theatre.

If you’re looking for an extraordinary (and somewhat zany and bizarre) theatrical magic show, then this is definitely the show for you. Clever, hilarious and refreshing, I look forward to what’s next on the crazy ‘Dom and Dumber’ horizon. This show is best enjoyed by audiences over 15.

*please do not put magicians and comedians into a blender.

MMF 2017 Mini Review: ‘Welcome to the Movies Part 3’

Having seen magician Peter Nguyen’s previous magic installment ‘Welcome to the Movies Part 2’ (which I thoroughly enjoyed) I was extra keen to see what the part 3 installment had in store for the audience.

Peter’s magic show is a tribute to the movies. He’s a self confessed movie buff and I enjoy that he displays his love of movies via magic. There’s plenty of variety in this show – sometimes the audience is watching a short movie clip on a screen, sometimes Peter is asking the audience movie trivia and a lot of the time Peter is performing magic. Peter is always optimistic and smiles broadly for the audience, and his entrance for this show was surprising! It’s hard not to be taken along for a magical ride through popular movies with Peter guiding the way. My boyfriend and I both saw this show (albeit on different nights) and it was interesting to see which segments he and I enjoyed the most. We both especially enjoyed Peter’s tribute to Stargate, and a scene during the show with Peter’s special lie detector. An interesting inclusion in this show was an awards ceremony (which I thought was quite clever). There is no sitting idly through this show, staring into a screen (as you would in the movies) as Peter frequently calls for assistance from the audience – often with hilarious results. Of course, everyone is treated well and perhaps a little ‘extra’ movie magic happens when audience members are involved.

Overall another fantastic show which really was like an escape to the movies, except with some added audience participation and some fantastic magic. This particular installment was aimed more at adults rather than children – with many of the movie quiz references being ‘before my time’ – however the children in attendance seemed interested and excited when it was time for magic. The installments of ‘Welcome to the Movies’ remain a MMF highlight for me so I hope another installment is on its way.

Note: I attended this show as a Peter’s guest.

MMF 2017 Mini Review: ‘Surreal’ performed by Josh Staley

I was very lucky to see three magic shows by Melbourne magician Josh Staley, and ‘Surreal’ was the final show I experienced from Josh at this year’s MMF. The audience was all excited to see what mysteries were in store for them, and I can tell you that the show definitely lived up to its name!

At the start of the show, Josh handed out some mysterious packages and boxes for selected audience members to keep an eye on (to be returned to later in the show). Along the way, Josh enlisted the assistance of many audience members which was fantastic to see as people were clearly excited to be selected to help out. Selecting many audience members to help meant that the entire audience actually felt closer to the magic happening. One of the things I enjoyed the most about this show was that it contained a wide assortment of objects – not just the ‘usual’ objects you’d find in a magic show but items like fruit, matchboxes and lightbulbs which added to the mystery and element of surprise.

This show also contained the most storytelling of all of Josh’s shows. Josh excels at storytelling, and these pieces were undoubtedly the strongest points of his show. I don’t want to spoil too much here, but trust me – when Josh tells a story, you’ll want to be an active listener and keep your eyes peeled for some fantastic moments of magic! There were many points during this show where the audience were making sounds of disbelief and shaking their heads, and this continued as the show ended. Many of the audience left the show wondering if they could believe what they had seen, for we had seen some wonderful and bizarre pieces of magic, surreal indeed.

 

 

MMF 2017 Mini Review: ‘Smoke & Mirrors’

Continuing on my very magical and fantastic odyssey of daytime magic shows, I was excited to see the show ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ by magician Richard Wibberley. Richard is a Melbourne magician however he has a British accent (and did mention he was from London) which added to the mystery of the show. Dressed in a striking yellow suit, Richard appeared and performed a very enjoyable and visual coin routine to draw the audience into his magical world.

Always very friendly towards the audience, and requiring plenty of audience participation (expected due to this being a family show) Richard treated his helpers well and ensured the audience had a fun time. We all shared many laughs during this magic show as well as an abundance of mystery and surprises. Richard had many curious props and magical pieces of equipment to show to the audience. We had no idea what wild prop was going to be around each corner! While some aspects of the show seemed a bit dated, the show was a fine choice for a family outing and there were many family groups and an assortment of children enjoying the show on the day I attended.

I’ve seen a small selection of Richard’s magic previously so I was beyond happy when he introduced his enchanted juice carton during the show. That routine is one of my favourites of all time, and if you haven’t had the chance to see it yet it is something you should get to see at least once in your life! Overall a very fun and enchanting show – I left the theatre with a smile on my face, thinking about how much magic makes me smile.

MMF 2017 Mini Review: ‘100% Dani DaOrtiz’ (International Guest)

Each year during the MMF I always make an effort to see each International headline act, and this year was no different. I’d heard a lot of excitement amongst the local magicians regarding Dani DaOrtiz’ magical capabilities so I was super keen to check out the show for myself. Appearing in a relaxed outfit, Dani seemed humble and the least ‘flashy’ or theatrical looking of any of the magicians I’ve seen. Perhaps this was to distract people from his true card wizardry?

I was aware that Dani’s specialty is card magic, however I was unaware of the exact nature of his card capabilities – gosh was I in for a night of incredible card magic and many surprises! The room was set up with 6 chairs around a table at the front of the room, and then the rest of the theatre had tiered seating so we could all see what went on at the front. A lucky selection of people took the chance to sit at the table at the front of the room, and they ended up sitting around Dani and experiencing many card miracles up close. Often I could see the looks of disbelief and the shaking of heads as the card magic flew by their very noses.

Dani was often able to produce and pinpoint a person’s chosen card shuffled amongst all other cards in a deck with lightning speed. Shuffles that seemed complicated, and varying sets of instructions given to participants were no hurdle for Dani as he seemed to know where every card’s position was every second of the entire show. It was an incredible show, with the tempo and excitement building each time Dani performed another miracle with cards (often using borrowed decks from audience members which just added to the mystifying nature of the show). Towards the end of the show (when many audience members were seemingly having their brains fried – myself included), Dani asked the audience if they wanted to see more and all the audience members roared.

Despite being surrounded by magicians in the audience (there was only a handful of ‘non magicians’ in attendance that night) it was an incredibly thrilling and impressive show for both the magicians and non magicians in the audience. Given that all the magic was from Dani DaOrtiz and the decks of cards he borrowed from the audience, the amounts of magic and amazement that occurred that night was beyond belief. In mythology, there are gods of the sun, war, love, oceans etc – in that sense I truly believe that Dani DaOrtiz is the god of card magic.