Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane Irene, The Media, Murder By Magic and REVIEW: The Briefcase Illusion by Paul Romhany

Hurricane Irene came and went and while hurricanes are never something to scoff at, I do want to point out that for many parts of the Northeastern US, the effects were not anywhere near as damaging as the media would have people believed would happen.

Again, hurricanes are not a good example of my point because we need caution for those storms, but so often the media actually installs fear by saying things like, "The expected catastrophe," and other fear-inducing words. It's one reason why, other than catching the headlines every few days, I NEVER repeat NEVER read the newspaper or watch the news on TV.

On a lighter note, I wanted to let everyone know that as of December 31, 2011, the Murder By Magic product will in fact be pulled from the marketplace. I was debating whether or not to double the investment (as many have said I should) but ultimately I just decided to pull the product completely. Those who have purchased it have been universal in their praise and I have no doubt they will benefit from it. Murder By Magic truly is a unique concept and while I released it to ensure that I received proper credit, I never intended it to become the Vanishing Bandanna of the 21st century.

Don't delay because after this year, it will be GONE.

On to this week's review: The Breiefcase Illusion by Paul Romhany. It's available for $24.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link:

EFFECT: Basic Performance: The MC walks on stage with a briefcase, no magician, just the case. He then places it on top of a writing desk. The lid of the case open, and the magician makes his appearance out of the briefcase.

Basic Vanish: The magician places the case on top of the writing desk, and a girl is pushed inside. The magician then picks up the case and walks off stage.

Variations: Use this for other productions with or without the briefcase. In Romhany's routine the briefcase lid opens up and an eight foot ladder appears from it, then Romhany makes his appearance out of the briefcase as though he is climbing up the ladder.

At FISM it was used to vanish TWO people. The briefcase was placed on the floor in front of the writing desk and a girl was pushed down inside. The magician then picked up the case and placed it on the table and another assistant was put inside the case. The case was then picked up and the magician walked off stage.

Produce or Vanish an assistant away from the table - use the table as a place to conceal your assistant.

Puppetry: This was also used for a puppeteer who was concealed inside the writing desk and able to operate a puppet while the performer interacted with the puppet.

WHAT YOU GET: A perfect bound soft cover book. There are drawings, photos and more galore, so you'll have NO problem understanding this. Video links and password-protected access to video tutorials are also included.

ANGLES: Here is where this illusion really shines! For most of the uses this utility illusion can be used for, a surrounded performance is indeed possible. Un-friggin'-believable.

MARKET: Wide open! The illusion looks so good that I can see this working for any age group. Obviously you wouldn't want to haul this out to a birthday show or private home gig, but for any stage show, this is fantastic!

DIFFICULTY: From a performance standpoint, the actual workings of this illusion are pretty easy, a 1 out of 10 for sure. Obviously, exiting (or entering, in some cases) must be rehearsed to perform in a fluid, magical manner, but the real question of difficulty comes from the construction of an illusion.

I myself have never felt comfortable building my own props. (Long-time readers of this blog will recall how often I grumble and complain whenever I must do such a thing!)

Nonetheless, after reading this book, I now know that even I can build this illusion. Obviously, a person must have the proper tools, so if you live on the fifth floor of an apartment building and you do not own any power tools, you're oing to have a tough time....however, the plans are so easy to comprehend, you could easily farm this out to a local carpenter or a buddy who has the tools.

PRACTICALITY: Another question facing potential buyers is the idea of practicality - "Do I REALLY want to haul a full-size DESK to a show?" Here's the really neat thing...and I hope Paul does not mind me tipping thing he does VERY thoroughly throughout the book is stress how you can use pin hinges to hold the illusion together for performances, meaning you can pack it down flat and easily transport this even without a large van!

The video links also provide footage of Paul assembling the prop so you can see just how practical this is.

MY THOUGHTS: First of all, I want to thank Paul for continuing to put out stellar material. I have wanted to know the workings of this illusion for years as for a while, Paul sold the illusion complete for around $3500. I considered buying it back then, but knowing how much of a pain many illusions are, I decided to pass.

Well, this illusion was designed for the working pro who does NOT have assistants or a large moving van to haul their stuff. Paul designed this for one man shows and while he provides several ways to incorporate assistants and/or multi-performer acts, it was originally designed for a one-man show.

One thing I really like about this is the fact that the illusion itself looks like something you'd see in everyday life. To me that just adds to the innocence of the prop. Peter Loughran and I had a discussion about illusions and we both agree that illusions can look fantastical because the whole idea of magic is fantastical, but if the object looks like something in the real world, that's a nice bonus.

After I read the book and understood the principle behind the illusion, I realized I could easily add this to my school shows for the simple reason that using an illusion that looks like a desk makes perfect sense!

I also think that using the illusion with a puppet makes total sense - audiences of all ages appreciate puppetry (this is coming from a guy who used to use Rocky Raccoon in his corporate shows) so adding the seeming impossibility of this illusion with a well-crafted puppet routine would be AWESOME.

I also feel the added value of the video links (password protected) is inspired. Romany is the second performer I myself have encountered who uses this idea in conjunction with a book release and while I'm sure there are others out there, it's not nearly as widespread of an idea as I would like.

RATING: A perfect 10 out of 10. My only gripe, and I honestly considered taking a point or two off for this, is the fact that this is priced way too low. I do not say that as a means of hype or hyperbole, but there is such a thing as giving away too much value. I truly hope that this illusion does not turn into the Zig Zag of the modern era. (I've seen lay audiences groan in unison when a Zig Zag is wheeled out because it has become so common place, despite the Zig Zag being a terrific illusion).

This is an incredible bargain and I can't wait to get started on mine. This goes on my short list of best releases of 2011.

NEXT WEEK: A VERY special announcement from me and the next review will be Fish In a Bottle by Dick Barry.

Questions? Comments? Email me at

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