Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rain-essance Festival & REVIEW: Kings Crossing

Hey loyal readers,

Had a chance this past weekend to catch some really good performances of variety artists at the Sterling Renaissance Festival located near Syracuse, NY. By far the best act was London Broil, a 3-man juggling act that combined juggling skill and improv comedy. I've seen the guys before and while juggling usually bores me (no offense) these three are simply hysterical.

There were other acts I enjoyed too but what really struck me was the fact that rain or shine, the acts went on. In the middle of the day, the skies opened up and the act we were watching (two comedy singing nuns!!) kept right on performing.


I must admit after watching these folks struggle through maintaining a crowd in the middle of a downpour that I have surely become spoiled!! It's one reason why I love my main two venues - schools and corporate!!

On another note, be on the lookout for my upcoming reviews of my friend Paul Romhany's new Pro Series booklets. I just received the first four, with the fifth on its way. These babies are INCREDIBLE and I'm stunned at just how much Paul gives away for such a low price. They are all wonderful but his Six Card Repeat booklet is so far my favorite as some of the comedy lines had me laughing out loud. Stay tuned...

This week's review is Kings Crossing by Nicholas Gignac. It's available for $58.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=16906

EFFECT: You show a stack of 20 jumbo-sized cards, and explain how you are going to simply transfer a bit of LOVE in your show. You bring onto the stage a couple of star-crossed lovers?or in a pinch, a married couple will also do.

Very fairly, deliberately, and separately, you count out the 20 jumbo cards onto the table?there are no false counts or sleights. You spread the top 10 cards in a fan, and show everyone including the volunteers that they are all King of Spades?everyone can clearly see 10 separate King of Spades. You close up the spread and give them to the man to hold safely in his hands, against his heart?all in the name of love! You then spread the other 10 cards in a fan, and show them all to be Aces of Diamonds?again the volunteers and audience can clearly see 10 separate Aces of Diamonds. You close up this spread and give them to the woman, who also holds them in her hands, against her heart. Note that from this point on, you never touch the cards again!

After a series of by-plays and funny bits, you then declare that you have now transferred 3 cards (bits of ?love?) from the man?s pile to the woman?s. To prove this, the man himself now counts the cards one at a time onto the table. There are only 7 cards. The woman is now invited to count out her cards onto the table, and incredibly there are 13! As a stunning kicker, she herself picks up the 13 cards and spreads through them, showing them to the audience. Incredibly everyone will see that there are now 3 King of Spades mixed into her spread?they are interspersed between the 10 Aces of Diamonds! An amazing and baffling magical transposition with a fun and interactive presentation has just taken place!

MY THOUGHTS: I usually save the "my thoughts' section for near the end of my review, but due to some things I'll be talking about I decided to do it early this time.

Everything you read in the ad copy is true with one major exception. Jason claims you can do this effect closeup and while it may be possible, I feel it would not be advisable. The fact that the jumbo cards are so big also makes the 'secret somethings' stand out more, especially in the fanned out displays. I feel stage or parlor is best.

The main point I want to address is the fact that most of the marketing of this effect to folks like you and me hinge upon the idea that after the cards are counted the magician never touches them again. This IS true but the way I see it, it is the solution to a problem that does not exist.

The Cards Across plot is a classic in magic and there are many successful handlings that have succeeded in entertaining people for decades. The solutions that Gignac has found for this old plot will technically work, but the quality of the props leaves much to be desired in my eyes, but more on that later...

Too often, we magicians fall prey to new versions of old effects that aren't needed. Rick Maue (Wonderful magic author from Pittsburgh, PA) once said in his writings that magic was like a lie and he was always chasing the perfect lie, one that could never be solved.

There are certain advances to certain effects that truly have advanced the effect. Sean Bogunia's Dancing Hanky advanced the effect from a multi-person effect to a one man effect very elegantly...but the fact is, not all new versions of old routines truly advance the basic effect.

My only point in saying all of this is to merely caution buyers when they are considering new versions of old effects. (I myself put forth a sincere effect with my take on the classic Airborne effect and those who purchased it have sent in several kind comments).

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Jason Palter does a good job explaining how the effect plays in terms of handling as well as little touches of blocking, spec management, etc. No complaints on the instruction.

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTY: Realistically, this should be a 2 or 3 tops, but since my cards were of low quality, it's hard for me to judge the difficulty objectively as the gimmicked cards would not cooperate.

QUALITY OF PROPS: Here's where the trouble begins. The cards are gimmicked in two ways - the first way is visually and the second way is a classic of mentalism when using cards. Yes, I'm trying to tip toe around exposure. Eugene Burger spoke openly about this same kind of gimmicks on the my lovely assistant website in some of his reviews so I almost tipped the method here but hey, I definitely do not have the respect of Burger, so I'll keep tip toeing.:)

Anyway, the way some of the cards are gimmicked visually is clever enough but the way they are gimmicked would make me very hesitant to use this effect in a close up setting.

The way the cards are gimmicked in the second manner involves adding something to the cards and this adding process was not done properly so my gimmicked cards do not function as they should. After a subsequent conversation with another magician who also owns the effect, I was told he had the same trouble. I also heard a bit about the manufacture process of the cards and I felt very relieved that the fault lied with the cards and not my own incompetence. So often in magic we are quick to blame the prop but in this instance I was assured the fault was not mine this time.

So, the cards do their job in a just "OK" fashion, which is not what I expect for a $60 card trick. Not good.

FINAL THOUGHTS: If your cards function adequately, this will work for you. The DVD explains everything very clearly, so that's worth several points. As far as the low quality of the gimmicked cards, you may be able to salvage them.

The concept is good, but honestly, for my preference, the BEST Cards Across version I've ever read comes from James Biss' first book Messing With Minds and the effect is called Alpha Across and I've used it for 5 years and it's just wonderful.

I plan on sticking with that effect and putting Kings Crossing on Ebay.

I give it a 5 out of 10.

Until next week, questions, comments or other ramblings can go to: crisjohnsoninfo@version.net



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