Cris Johnson here...Before I get into this week's review, I wanted to let you know of some changes. First of all, I'm going to be making some changes, both in this blog as well as one or two new blogs I may be launching in the near future. For this blog, I'm going to try to inject a little more personality into it. Over the last week or so, I've been corresponding more & more with my friend Paul Romhany and as such, I've been reading more of his older blog entries and it's amazing what he shares, so I'm probably going to be going in the same direction.
Secondly, one or two new blogs...I'm still planning things, but I may launch one that includes business/marketing tips for magicians & entertainers and I may launch one that's sort of a retro-active journal. I often share stories with my friends about the wild and wacky journey I took to becoming a full-time entertainer and some of the stories...whew, if walls could talk!
Of course, I'll still be sending out my "Cause & Effects" once-per-month newsletter. Sign up for free by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And obviously the "Trick Talk" blog isn't going anywhere.:)
Anyway, that's in the future. Right now, I'm stuck in a hotel room for an extra day. I live in New York, in the USA and this time of year, we typically get POUNDED with snow. Well, I woke up today expecting to perform at a school only to find out school had been canceled because of the weather.
That meant an extra day on the road when we re-scheduled it. Logically, I could have billed the client for the extra day on the road, but here in the US schools are struggling, so I booked an extra day at the hotel using my hotel "reward points," sort of frequent traveler points, that one can accumulate. I'd built up enough points so I was able to grab a free night at one of the nicer hotels.
It didn't cost me anything, my client was thrilled with "how easy I am to work with," and fortunately, my computer is just stuffed with projects.:)
Now, onto this week's review....Dresscode by Calen Morelli. It's available from Hocus Pocus for $24.95. Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=14682
EFFECT: It's an instant shirt change for street or stage performers. You turn your back to the audience for just an instant and turn back around and Voila! Completely new shirt.
WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A well-produced DVD and some simple gimmicks. These gimmicks, by the way, would only cost you a dollar or so at the store, so if you need to replace anything, your cost is almost nothing.
DIFFICULTY: After watching the DVD straight through, I feel from a technical standpoint, this is a pretty easy effect to do, maybe a 2 out of 10, not hard at all. You'll need to practice the 'move,' but trust me, it's not hard. As I always say with an easy (technically) effect, the real secret comes from presentation. Fortunately, Calen gives you a few different presentations to make use of the technology he teaches.
QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: This is where this DVD shines. First of all, I'm not an arts-n-crafts guy. In fact, despite it's simple construction, I happily paid Anthony Lindan's wife $200 to make me a Curtain of Death because I just do NOT like making my own props.
Fortunately, Calen takes you through the gimmick shirt construction step by step. The DVD picture is very clear, high quality, as most of the T11 stuff is. After watching this, I have no doubt in my mind that I can easily put this together. Believe me, if I have the confidence to pull this off construction-wise, and I'm a simpleton, then virtually anyone can.
Also, when it comes to teaching you the performance, Calen slowly and patiently goes through the process to make sure everything is crystal-clear.
I REALLY like that.
As a sidebar, I have two effects in my act that, compared to Dresscode, could be called "expensive." One is $550 and the other is $750. Both effects are exceptional, but in both cases, the creators seemed to be annoyed and/or trying to finish the DVD instructions as fast as possible.
For Calen to be so thorough for a $24.95 DVD is commendable.
Another high point is the fact that Calen offers troubleshooting tips and more specifically, things to look out for that could ruin the effect as you're learning it. Too many creators put out an effect without offering advice on what not to do. No effect is troublefree, so the fact that he offers such fine points of instruction goes a long way with me.
ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: On the DVD are several live presentations. Calen gets terrific reactions out of the effect, both in terms of the shirt "costume" change as well as the other effect in which the shirt itself doesn't appear to change, but an element of it does. Yes, I'm being cryptic, because I'm trying to protect one of the ideas on this DVD that is worth several times more than the asking price. When my wife (who is not a fan of most "street performance" types of magic) saw the costume change variation that Calen presented, she immediately said, "THAT'S cool." I myself instantly thought of ways to incorporate this idea into my high school performances.
When it comes to performing in the streets, I'm not a big fan of this generation of magicians. They seem to have a too-cool for school attitude, which, since they seem to get great reactions on the DVDs I've been sent and/or purchased, seems to indicate that I'm horribly out of touch with teens.:)
That being said, I really appreciate Calen's effort to take what could be a 1 or 2 second throw-a-way 'trick' and build it up into an actual effect. Some of his thinking shows his study of a lot of good principles in mentalism, especially the forces he uses.
I've heard some people on the message boards griping and whining that they don't like the fact that Calen turns his back to perform the change. I confess I too was less than thrilled with that part, but Calen justifies it nicely by showing the back of his shirt before the change. In essence, he's showing you 'the whole shirt,' making it more impossible.
Also, after watching the method, I do believe you may be able to work out a way to do this without turning your back - maybe using a fake hand and holding up a posterboard or something. Anyway, it's a thought.
Finally, on the topic of turn-around move that some people don't like, I submit that this may be a case of magicians thinking like magicians. As an example, I was really skeptical of using that huge cloth in the Magellan Levitation, thinking it looked like you were hiding. In actual performance, the audience LOVES it. I haven't had time to put together the Dresscode for myself yet, but I suspect lay audiences will react very well.
ANGLES: You can't do this surrounded, sorry. That being said, the angles are pretty good. Calen has worked this out nicely for street performances, but I think this is going to shine very nicely on stage.
MARKET: Depending on the style of your presentational hook or frame, you could do this for nearly any age, from kids up to adults. Calen has recently posted videos on youtube of him doing the shirt change, changing from one dress shirt and tie to a completely different dress shirt and a different tie. VERY nice, indeed.
LIMITATIONS: Yes, to answer a lot of forum questions, you are permanently mangling the shirt the audience first sees you wearing. The second shirt, after the change, is ungimmicked.
You don't have to do this as an opener, either. I can see myself doing this at any point in the show. After the change you should be quite comfortable as well.
I fully admit to not knowing a lot about quick changes, but in the right context, I've always thought it was a very cool effect in Magic. In particular, Rudy Coby's TV special featured several quick changes and the speed always impressed me.
I feel Calen's offering is very functional for real-world performers.
RATING: I give this a rock-solid 8 out of 10.
NEXT WEEK: I tackle Peter Loughran's A Touch Of Glass, his beautiful bottle production effect.
NEXT MONTH: I'll be reviewing several of Paul Romhany's products, including his Mental Epic Compendium, his Entertaining on Cruise Ships, Dream Prediction Lite and his Artist's Dream routine, featuring the Drink Trick prop based on Ricki Dunn's design.