Having been to 10 Melbourne Magic Festivals so far, one of my long standing traditions is to always attend the very last show of the festival – the ‘Best of the Fest’. A great credit to show host Nicholas J Johnson is that for the final show of the festival he pull out all the stops to provide a smorgasbord of magicians to entertain the audience in the tight one hour show time. Some magicians end up with literally only a minute with which to entertain the audience, which is quite a feat in itself!
Obviously, listing out all the magicians here would be quite a task (and make for a dry review) so I’ll just mention a few highlights, but let me mention up front that there is a reason this show sometimes sells out a week before it runs – it really is that awesome. If you like to see lots of different magic – this show is for you, if you want to see short and sharp magic – this show is for you, if you’re the kind of person who’d like to see a good chunk of the festival performers all in the one show….I could go on!
Personal highlights for me during the show were David Chandler’s whimsical children’s magic (also clearly delighting adults too); mentalist Caleb Street involving the entire front row for a mind blowing prediction – which was also impressive from a logistics point of view; and Carisa Hendrix (performer of many, many talents) showing the audience her ‘sideshow’ side by ramming a massive (needle shaped) lobotomy tool up a nostril. I was so thrilled to have that unfold before my eyes, it was AH-MAZING! The wonderful Ghetto Shaman (Adam Axford) returned with some amazing word magic, and we were all treated to a visit by the Dandyman (Daniel Oldaker) with some offbeat comedy (which is what he does best).
The best highlight for me, however, was the return of the ‘Best of the Magic Fest’ cult favourite Gary the Magician. Gary’s a natural performer, with a wide smile, enthusiastic arms and a perhaps ‘inflated’ personality. Gary is pictured within this review in all his green splendour. In previous years there were sad rumours of Gary’s retirement / untimely demise which made me very sad. When Nicholas J Johnson announced that Gary the Magician would be taking to the stage, I’m pretty sure I cheered the loudest…before crying with laughter so much during Gary’s magic routine that I was practically crying into my partner’s hoodie mid way through the routine. Gary the Magician is so special and iconic that I urge anyone who has the chance to attend a show by him to do so. He is literally ‘limited edition’ and his retirement / demise rumours resurface each year so who knows which year will mark his last visit.
The final “Best of the Magic Fest” is the perfect show to ‘bookend’ any trip to the Melbourne Magic Festival. It is such a delightful, energetic celebration of magic that I’m distracted enough to forget that it’s the last show of the festival (and that the festival ends after the show is done).
VERDICT: unmissable, and a runaway hit of the festival. No one forgets their experience at the last ‘Best of the Magic Fest’ so I can’t recommend this show enough. Make sure you book it in your calendar next year!