Review: A Fun Night In with Lucy Darling

If you’ve previously read my reviews (or not!) you may be familiar with a personal rule that I have concerning the amazing talented, magical character that is Lucy Darling (performed by Carisa Hendrix): I always try to see each of Lucy’s performances twice. There are usually many reasons for this, but the main reasons being that Lucy is a champion of continuous improvement – she continually makes tweaks to portions of her show; and the audience member interactions change all the time – every show of hers is a chance anew for fun banter with the audience.

A number of weeks ago I saw one of Lucy Darling’s first sets of online shows. If you didn’t catch that review, it is here). As you may expect, I have returned for another serving, and once again Lucy Darling blew away all of my expectations (as she often does). ‘A Fun Night In with Lucy Darling’ is an interactive online show full of magic and a variety of unexpected surprises. For those who have seen her earlier shows, this show includes some unmistakeable enhancements.

Personal highlights: too many routines and magical moments to list! Each one of Lucy’s shows is filled to the brim with highlights. In terms of the wit and comedy, I almost had to mute myself because I was laughing so much during the show. Like many of us, Lucy has (recently?) taken up a special hobby and demonstrates this during her show – prompting many laughs and much enjoyment for the audience. Lucy’s charming and comedic house managers / butlers, Marcy and Laurence returned for this show series, which pleased me greatly. Their facial expressions and witty comments bring extra dimensions to the performance. This show also featured the return of the ‘Caption Contest’. Lucy does not lie when she mentions that audience members return for that segment (well that and to see the divine Lucy herself of course!) One aspect I particularly liked was the variety of ‘cut in’ scenes during the show. Yes, the ‘cut in’ scenes were pre recorded but they helped to add variety and bring some extra elements into the show. The audience were treated to a plethora of magic and curious effects throughout the entire show, which is an enhancement in itself as it felt like ‘a magic show plus more’. There’s even an unmissable montage at the end of the show too which I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed. My eyes were shining with happiness during the final montage.

Suffice to say, if you haven’t had the online pleasure of a Lucy Darling show NOW IS YOUR CHANCE! Do not delay, buy a ticket today!!!! I was grinning like the Cheshire Cat all throughout ‘A Fun Night In with Lucy Darling’ and it can’t get much better than that. If you have seen one of Lucy’s shows before (even if that was in her previous show run) there is still plenty of magical, fun moments for you to enjoy in this show too.

VERDICT: Lucy Darling has outdone herself again! ‘A Fun Night In with Lucy Darling’ is filled with surprises from start to finish and has MORE of everything: more flourishes, more astonishment, more hilarity.

Lucy Darling has a very short online season of magic shows. Tickets and more information: https://www.thelucydarling.com/lucy-at-home/

Review: A Night At The Laneway Theatre

Well known Melbourne magician Tim Ellis runs The Laneway Theatre, which is a wonderful little magic theatre tucked away in a laneway of inner city Melbourne. Of course, with Metropolitan Melbourne still being in lockdown, there are no physical visitors / audience members allowed in the theatre. Given this, Tim Ellis has provided a virtual weekly ‘Night At The Laneway Theatre’ show over zoom for audiences to enjoy and to spread entertainment and cheer during what has been a difficult time for many.

Recently, I attended one of these weekly shows, to see what all the fuss was about and I must say I was not disappointed! The audience members selected to leave their mics and videos on certainly put the ‘fun’ in front row! In regards to the magic itself much of it was surprising, eliciting gasps of surprise from audience members. During the show, there were some impressive predictions on display, plus some card magic that audience members could follow along with (which I particularly enjoyed). Some great close up effects were featured (and yes, they did appear up close despite viewing the show on a screen!) This was a very fun, light-hearted show, and one in which every person is given the chance to become a magician. Tim also included a poignant piece of storytelling magic which was enjoyable (as well as a surprise encore!) ‘A Night At The Laneway Theatre’ is a show that has it all. If you need further convincing, one young audience member repeatedly remarked “Best Magician EVER!” into the microphone at regular intervals during the show – you can’t get a better testament than that!

The show I attended even included a mini tour of The Laneway Theatre itself (complete with it’s own spooky corner, creepy entrance and special props here and there). Tim Ellis also included some nostalgic footage of his past escapes and televised magic shows which left an impression on him which was a nice touch.

VERDICT: With many surprises for lucky and unsuspecting audience volunteers, ‘A Night at The Laneway Theatre’ is a very entertaining show that is easy to enjoy and appeals to a wide range of ages. Highly recommended.

At this time of writing, we are still in lockdown in Melbourne, and I do not know if future / what sort of future shows are planned. Please visit the link below for more information about The Laneway Theatre:
https://thelanewaytheatre.com/

Review: “The Impossible Zoom Experiment”

Talented magicians Eric Chien (from China) and Dom Chambers (from Australia) have combined their formidable magic forces in “The Impossible Zoom Experiment”. Both magicians have appeared on popular television and magical theatre shows (America’s Got Talent, Penn & Teller: Fool Us, and The Illusionists on Broadway) but have very different magic styles. The magical forces of Eric Chien and Dom Chambers combine to create what I believe is a simply unmissable show.

The fact the show takes place over Zoom usually presents magicians with some challenges, but these magicians have harnessed and overcome those challenges to present an unbelievable, unforgettable hour of magic. Hosting, performing and producing this show is no mean feat in itself – with the show being broadcast over zoom, with vision from Australia and China being linked. Not to mention the magicians rehearsing and remotely writing such a show.

There are elements within “The Impossible Zoom Experiment” that you’d find in many magic shows – pieces featuring playing cards and predictions – but Eric and Dom just take everything to that next level, and it showed all night in the reactions of the audience members. There were many squeals of delight and surprise and many sounds that I can only interpret as the audience being frequently astonished with what they saw. Minds were being blown all over zoom – the magic was that amazing. When I attend magic shows in person, I often get this feeling of excitement of what’s to come and I had that feeling all throughout this show. “The Impossible Zoom Experiment” is filled with highlights, but a personal highlight of mine was Eric Chien’s FISM award winning routine set to music. Mind = Blown. I couldn’t believe my eyes and I’m sure you won’t either. The disbelief was palpable.

Eric and Dom themselves are wonderful performers and hosts. Being so incredibly talented, you may expect some ego to be on display but there was none here. By the end of the show it felt like everyone was friends, it was a nice communal feeling (despite everyone being separated by a screen).

“The Impossible Zoom Experiment” truly is an unbelievable, unforgettable show that will have you questioning what really is in the realm of (im)possibility. Impossibilities can be explored virtually, and this show does it all with superb flair.

VERDICT: “The Impossible Zoom Experiment” validates that being behind a screen is no barrier to incredible magic (that often seems impossible) and certainly no barrier to a mind blowing evening of entertainment. If there’s any virtual magic show to be experienced for yourself, it’s this one!

Tickets / more information – see the link below. More show dates will be announced soon.
https://www.dominicchambers.com/impossiblezoom

Online platform tips to enhance your virtual magic show

While I’ve been spending over 100 days working from home, with each day including at least one meeting over an online platform plus spending my non-working hours watching magic and variety performances over online platforms, I’m beginning to see some trends of how online platforms can be well utilised to enhance shows. Bearing in mind that I am not a performer myself – but I am a BIG FAN of magic (a very regular audience member) and am a live (and now online) entertainment reviewer- however a friend has asked me to compile some tips for harnessing online platforms to enhance the show for the audience. These tips are mainly from an audience member and ticket purchaser’s perspective and the specifics mentioned are in relation to the online platform Zoom. I know there are alternative platforms out there; however the majority of the online magic shows I’ve seen so far have been hosted via Zoom. Regardless of your choice of online platform, the messages and suggestions here remain the same.

If you’re reading this and you’ve already completed many online performances (not just magic as I’m sure these tips can be great for variety acts too), or you’re just totally tech savvy then feel free not to read further – although you may like to share this post with others. If you do have some tips of your own that aren’t listed below that you’d like to share with me / for me to share with others (potentially in a future blog post) you’re welcome to send them to tayaroundtown@gmail.com. Otherwise, read on to discover some tips that you may like to consider for your next online show.

Before the show: email your audience members a reminder of the show and include any important instructions and of course, links.
Most online magic shows I’ve attended will mention that the “show foyer” is open 15 minutes prior to show time. This is great as it allows me to set up my desk and test my headset / mic and also allows me to greet any friends that are in the audience and greet the performer. This also allows the audience to be settled and ready for the actual show at the advertised time. For your performance, you may like audience members to have a pen and paper or deck of cards ready (or other props) and a reminder email is a good method for that too. Some shows have even encouraged the audience members to dress up / wear special hats and these aspects can also be mentioned in a reminder.

One time a show ‘sign in’ / foyer time wasn’t communicated in an email prior to a show, and I didn’t get the notification in social media until much later. It ended up just being by chance that I happened to join at the best time. Best to not leave things to chance, especially for online shows!

Consider having a slide / image or a message appear in advance of the show, when people enter the ‘meeting room’.
This image or message can have some ‘house rules’ on it for people to read. i.e for everyone to mute themselves, or perhaps let audience members know if you want them to leave their cameras on (or not). Seeing this is written text and then having the performer mention this verbally is great reinforcement for the audience. It also helps to set the tone of the show and prevents audience distractions during the show (i.e. people constantly telling others to mute). This also allows a performer to concentrate on the magical performance, rather than having to remember too many technical instructions and reminders for the audience. Also make sure you mention to the audience if the show is going to be recorded or not.

During a show I recently attended, some tech related instructions were somewhat hastily communicated to the audience just before show time and it was challenging to decipher exactly what was being asked of the audience, especially as two people mentioned conflicting items and button locations! It was all sorted out swiftly but as an audience member it’s hard to know what to do when your brain approaches ‘panic mode’ as you scramble to find the right button at the last minute. In another show, not everyone was getting the message to mute themselves, and having another audience member verbally tell the other person to mute then use the chat window to say the same thing became distracting.

Ensure you have a virtual “tech desk” or tech assistant: a person who is on hand (and is made ‘co-host’) purely to address any technical issues or needs.
The most seamless and well organised online performances I’ve seen have all had an online tech desk / tech assistant who sits in the background and makes sure that things run as smoothly as they can. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have internet drop outs / that your bandwidth will magically be enlarged, but it does mean that there can be someone to help the less technically inclined members of the audience (trust me – there’s always one) to find the mute button (or any other button for that matter). It’s also another ‘pair of hands’ to help you select audience volunteers, interact with the audience and ensure things can run as smoothly as possible. This person can also potentially keep the show running if your own internet drops out. On Zoom, for instance, if there’s only one meeting host and their internet drops out then the meeting ends. If you have a co-host, then you’ll always have that other person to keep the meeting running (even if your own internet goes down).

On this note, having a tech run pre-show is not enough and it is no substitute for / not the same thing as having a tech assistant with you during the actual show.  By all means, have a tech run prior to the show – it’s a great way for you to test your lighting / speaker / camera / computer and internet setups – but as we all know, technology can be fickle and not everything is guaranteed to work 100% at the event time, even when a tech run has been successfully completed. Having a tech assistant with you for each show is optimal and I’m sure will be appreciated by your audience members. It also comes across as professional to the audience – as you’re doing everything in your power to encourage and promote the success of the show.

Set aside time to perform on the platform you’ll be using and record yourself so you can check your angles and props before you perform for your audience.
This could be during your tech run or it could be a completely different test run (that you record and watch back later). Angles are of course, very important – especially if you’re taking content that you may do on stage / behind a prop that is no longer there within a virtual show. Many performers have various lights shining at them for virtual performances (ring light, anyone?) but these lights can also make playing card faces unreadable / blank to the camera (and audience) at certain angles. You may need to check the angles of your cards in a test run before you show them to your wider audience. You may not have performed in this setting before, and if that’s the case, practising in front of your online setup is crucial.

In a couple of the shows I’ve previously seen, audience members were asked to remember a card that absolutely no one could read due to the lighting. This can be communicated to the performer at the time, of course, but it can push out the time for this effect / disengage people if it happens too often. During another show, some card vanishes / productions were performed that were out of focus / far away from the camera. Due to that, the illusion and skill seemed less impressive.

Please check / test the running time of your show!
I can speak on behalf of the wider audience when I say we understand that you may not be 100% exactly sure of the run time of your virtual show, especially when audience interactions are involved (which can, at times, take longer than expected). What I can say is that I’ve attended shows that have run over time and shows that have run under time. With the show/s that have run over time, it was never more than 10 minutes and it’s a general assumption that after the allotted show closing time has passed, that audience members are free to leave if they need to do so. Some audience members may think that a show running over time is fine because it’s perceived as better value for money.

Shows that run under time is the real issue here. When shows run under time, it tells the audience that you haven’t tested all your material or perhaps you’ve left something out / forgotten about something. It can also encourage the audience to perceive they may not have received value for money, as the run time of the show is usually very clearly stated in communications prior to the show. Ultimately, not a good look! If you’re unsure of your run time, do some test runs and if unsure – round down (i.e. advertise 50 minutes instead of 60 etc).

Another thing to remember is that clocks are easily accessible on devices. During a face-to-face show, audience members probably won’t check their watches so much, but most computer  / device screens constantly display the time. This means that any deviations in advertised event times (like starting late or finishing early) are likely to be more noticeable for the audience.

Decide how you want the audience to applaud / reward / encourage you and ensure you communicate this with them.
This is a big one to consider as with stage / magic in real life, magician’s applause cues are read in ‘real time’ by the audience, without any video delays / lags and the audience can react swiftly. With online performances, audience reactions may generally be a little slower. This is a 2 step process whereby you select how you want your audience to react and then you communicate this to them.

To help the audience to react the way you want them to, you need to instruct them how to applaud / reward / encourage you:
– this could be via the ‘Reactions’ button in Zoom – which is a clap or thumbs up emoji
– this could be via leaving a comment in the chat box / window
– this could be via encouraging people to make the clapping motion / cheer on screen (while muted)
– this could be via having everyone un-mute themselves for a short while to cheer and clap into their mics (and then you ask everyone to mute themselves again until the end of the show etc)

You then need to communicate this to the audience. This can be done in a welcoming intro / on a welcome screen or image. Once the audience knows what to do and sees others doing the same thing, then people will follow the action or behaviour.

I’m sure each audience member has their own favoured way of reacting. Personally, if the above isn’t communicated (or isn’t communicated properly) then my own default method is the hand clapping emoji (within the ‘Reaction button’ in Zoom). I tend not to type comments into the chat box too much as it takes my attention away from the screen (suffice to say, I’m often looking at the keyboard when I type!)

To VIP or not to VIP?
Similar to VIP ticket offerings in offline shows, some of the online shows I’ve attended have also included this option. Whether you choose to offer this is up to you, however there are important considerations here:
you need to make it clear what the VIP option offers the audience: is it a link to special content? Is it a special recorded message for VIPs? Will VIPs receive a special thank you email post show? Will VIPs have social media shout outs? Will VIP people be selected to be a virtual ‘front row’ for the audience and be able to keep their mics on for the entire show?
the VIP option needs to be perceived as valuable to the audience: if people aren’t interested in extra content or a ‘virtual front row’ or extra thank you notes then they won’t upgrade their ticket.
how is this going to make your other non VIPs in the audience feel? Having a VIP option is fine, but I think you are better placed to not mention VIPs once the show begins (unless you’ve chosen the ‘virtual front row’ option for VIPs – that may require mentioning). At the end of the day, everyone in your audience has paid to be there, and having extra perks paraded in front of non VIPs doesn’t feel nice. Selecting (or not selecting) the VIP option is an active decision by each audience member, and either decision shouldn’t be projected as inferior or not worthy.

Here’s my personal opinion on this:  Given what I have seen so far, I’d be reluctant to purchase a VIP option for an online show. The particular perks listed haven’t been tempting enough for me to part ways with extra money. Given this, please keep in mind that out of all the online magic shows I’ve seen so far, only one offered a VIP option. Also my opinion on this may very well change in the future (at this point I do not know how long we’ll be seeing online offerings before being allowed back into a physical theatre).

Zoom settings checklist / Reminders
Given that zoom seems to be one of the most popular choices for online show platforms, I thought I’d write up a brief checklist of zoom settings that you may like to double check prior to your online event. If you need assistance with any of these, I’d highly recommend checking out the help section of zoom – there are lots of instructions and instructional videos to help you out there. If by chance, you don’t use Zoom as your platform, you can skip the tips below – perhaps the platform you use has different names for these items?

Zoom Settings and reminders checks:
– Zoom usually has a cap on the amount of attendees, so please ensure you don’t oversell your show! Ensure that the ticket program you’re using has a similar cap set to that of your Zoom package / subscription
– ensure in settings that you have co-host enabled. This must be done prior to your webinar / meeting (event). Then when the meeting has been started, you can assign someone as your co-host
– if there are some great comments happening in the chat window, this can be downloaded and stored for later….including ‘private’ messages sent between attendees (something you may also want to keep in mind as an attendee!)
– ensure any reminder emails / auto reminders for the event are switched on
– It’s generally a good idea to go to the settings area in general prior to the event and double check that all your settings are as you wish them to be / matching what you need for the event.

If you’re still with me at this point, thanks for reading! I hope this piece has reminded you of settings to check or prompted some considerations of aspects of online shows. Within the current challenging times, so much of our lives have shifted to virtual formats so it’s a good skill to harness the power of virtual formats to enhance the presentation of your own show.

Extra notes:
*I’ve paid to attend each virtual magic show I’ve seen so far
*I’m not sponsored by Zoom (or any other online platform) – this piece was requested by a friend but it contains some points that I think many can benefit from

Review: “WHAT TO DO? – The Virtual Magic Experience”

One of the more pleasant side effects of being in lockdown is the plethora of online magic shows that seem to appear each week. Recently, I attended “WHAT TO DO? – The Virtual Magic Experience” performed and presented by local Melbourne magician Braydon Barry (of BJT Entertainment). “WHAT TO DO?” indeed is a catch cry of the current times when people can’t visit their usual places for entertainment, and for some, boredom has already set in. Braydon often performs street magic and regularly performs at local markets (back when we could attend markets) so I was keen to see the magical surprises he had in store for his virtual audience. Looking dapper in his suit and with a whimsical home made backdrop, Braydon welcomed everyone to the show with some juggling and some jokes.

This magic show contained many of the kinds of props you’d expect to see in a magic show: with cards, rubber bands and linking rings all making an appearance (along with the juggling balls making several appearances). A personal highlight was a card prediction routine that I was asked to assist in that truly had me wondering “how does he do it?!” Let me assure you that the magic that is witnessed on a screen does not diminish the amazement that it carries and conjures for the audience! Braydon also performed a special silent routine during the show which was clever and poignant in equal measures.

Fun banter carried throughout this family show, keeping the audience interaction fun and the laughs rolling. Braydon handled all audience comments well, and was especially patient and welcoming of comments from the children in the audience. Braydon’s performance of some sharpie (marker) magic for the children in the audience was another personal highlight, and it created much laughter and exclamation from the youngest audience members. Like many shows, there was a bit a of mayhem and chaos amongst the magic however it was all in good fun.

With many activities now taking place online (from office meetings and gym sessions to magical entertainment), online meeting platforms aren’t without their perils and this show was not immune to those, however the disruptions were very minor and did not impede the magic (or the enjoyment of the magic).

VERDICT: A fun show to sit back and enjoy with your family, featuring light hearted and fun content with a few surprises mixed in for good measure. Braydon has so much magic to share that you’ll wonder how an hour can fly past in seemingly no time!

More information: I’m not sure if Braydon has more shows planned, however he is active on socials, so please click the link below for more information.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BJTEntertainment/