Howdy, loyal readers, Cris Johnson here.
I've been greatly encouraged by the number of new sign-ups for my ezine, "Cause & Effects." Each month, it brings you magic philosophy, performing tips, marketing advice, traveling tips for pros, and much more. The May issue will feature my article on how Alfred Hitchcock's view of suspense can enhance certain effects in your act.
It's FREE - just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On to this week's review - Freakey by Greg Wilson. Available for $94.95 from Hocus Pocus here: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=8467
This little package esentially is a new way of presenting a copper & silver routine, with no shells or need for a "bang ring" to retrieve your gimmick coin.
EFFECT: A copper key and a silver key switch places under the fairest conditions, even in the spectator's hand.
WHAT YOU GET: You get a very nice keyfob to hold the three keys - an ungimmicked silver key, ungimmicked copper key and the gimmicked silver/copper key. In addition, you receive a small drawstring bag to hold the keys. You also receive a DVD with a zillion routines, not only by Greg Wilson but also other contributers including Max Maven and John Kennedy, among others.
INSTRUCTION: First rate productions featuring Greg and his girlfriend through most of the video. Everything was shot in front of a black backdrop which really seems to suck the life out of the picture, but the quality was still good and Greg is an enthusiastic and charismatic host.
ANGLES: Many of the handlings feature moves which can be done surrounded, while a few use the "paddle move" and a couple of other sleights which require a bit of care, but still, this prop and the routines were primarily designed for real-world working conditions in less-than-ideal conditions. In short, you'll have little angle concerns, especially considering there are so many fully thought-out routines.
DURABILITY: The gimmicked key is extremely well-made and with care, will last a lifetime. Greg cautions users to be careful using the keys in moves where they scrape against each other, or some of the coating may be scraped off. With that in mind, this is not a prop I would throw into a prop case or drawer to be tossed about.
MY THOUGHTS: I really wanted to like this more than I did. I guess my biggest problem with this was the fact that in most of the routines, it's still two keys switching places. It's an easy-to-follow plot, essential for many close-up workers working in the real world. However, it's still a 'gotcha' type of routines, meaning it's very easy for the magician to come off as a snot - "look, I fooled you again!"
Am I saying this is a bad investment? No way. It's a classic plot, made better by using keys as opposed to odd coins. It boils down to certain effects and props 'sticking' with me more than others. In other words, to really give such a well-produced product its due, you'll need to put some serious work into the scripting and/or your character to avoid coming off as a know-it-all.
Max Maven's routine, in particular, seems to address this problem as he uses an 'influence' type of presentation.
I probably tried four or five different presentations (some of Greg's, some of my own), but like some effects, it just did not 'sing' for me.
THE STRENGTHS: Because I was less than thrilled with my own results with Freakey, I do still want to focus on the positive qualities, as there is a LOT of negativity by other reviewers of magic in the world. So here's some strengths of Freakey...
On different forums, many magicians seem to have a primary concern about whether people can examine props, how tight are the angles and other questions of a technical nature. With Freakey, you can absolutely pass things out to be examined by use of some simple switches (especially because you have two ungimmicked keys) and with some routines, the gimmicked key is openly shown and handed out. Like I said, it's all in the routining, more with this effect than perhaps anything else I've reviewed thus far.
Also, as I've addressed previously, there is no re-set. I dropped the original "Scotch & Soda" coin effect from my close-up act years ago because I wanted an act with zero re-set as I went from table to table and this routine definitely addresses those concerns for the pros out there.
The props are also well-made. No cheap plastic here, folks. The DVD has an 'extra' in which Greg leads you through the production facility to illustrate how much went into the props.
Finally, it's logical. As Greg addresses in the ad copy, who really carries around oddball coins/ Only magicians. The keys really lend itself to an "impromptu" type of performance, especially when you're out and about and someone, upon learning you're a magician, says, "Show me something."
THE WEAKNESSES: As I see it, any routine of this nature suffers from a few potential (stressing the word POTENTIAL) weaknesses.
First, if we accept that there are only 13 or so basic effects in magic, some effects can be perceived as stronger than others. For instance, in my own work, in close-up, I have instances of PK activity, close-up levitations and more during my work. After all of that material, causing two keys to switch places seemed like a letdown to my audiences. Just to stress, it may play great for YOU - we are all different, and I just lost motivation after a while with this effect. It happens.
A second possible weakness - with many routines of this type, you're constantly showing the audience that they are wrong. This can be very adversarial. Again, with great scripting, this can be overcome. I just decided I wanted to devote my energies elsewhere and gave up on this effect.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I can certainly recommend Freakey if you enjoy this type of routine. The props are REALLY well made and Greg provides you with at least a dozen variations, if not more. The instruction is superb. As I said, it comes down to scripting.
I've bent over backwards to stress I just lost motivation with this package and continue to stress that in your hands it can be a winner. I'll give it a 7 out of 10 - fantastic value as far as quality, but the buyer should be aware that tight scripting or at least good adaptation of Greg's routines to your own character is definitely needed to make this work for you.
Until next time,
Send any comments, review requests to email@example.com.