Saturday, July 21, 2012

High School Course, Murder By Magic and REVIEW: Read-A-Libre By Lay Leslie

Hi all,

This week's blog will be a little rushed as I'm heading out the door to perform and have been swamped all week with hypnotherapy clients and putting the finishing touches on "How to Make a Ton of Money Performing in High Schools!"

I'm REALLY happy with how this is turning out, although it's a little frustrating as I'll be writing along and think, "Oh, I never to cover topic X, Y and Z, " so it keeps getting longer and longer! I sat down when I started working on the project with a long list of toics I wanted to cover, and the darn list keeps getting longer!

The good news is I should be finished with the course by the end of the weekend or sometime next week at the very latest. Those of you who have placed pre-release orders, THANK YOU!! I'm sure you'll LOVE the course and getting two completely scripted programs ain't bad either!

I also want to thank my friend Paul Romhany for his kind words about the new high school course. He's seen big chunks of the as-yet-not-quite finished project and his support is so appreciated.

Paul also mentioned in his blog last week my Murder By Magic. Right now, it's not available on the Hocus Pocus website, but if the interest is still there (and apparently it is because people are asking Paul his opinion), I may re-release it. If you're interested, email me at If interest is high enough, I may allow Hocus Pocus to put it back up.

On to this week's review: it's Read-A-Libre by Jay Leslie. It's available from Hocus Pocus for $375.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You get the two stacks of READ letter blocks, gimmicks, the tube, a DVD of the performance script and written instructions.

QUALITY OF PROPS: I own Jay's standard version of Cube-A-Libre with numbers 1-6. This version is exactly the same in terms of quality. The props look great and the matte yellow against black background color scheme is great for big audiences.

However, Jay himself readily admits that the material he uses to make the props is susceptible to scratches so he recommends caution.

With my original version of Cube-A-Libre, Jay provided a cardboard box to carry the prop. I eventually  bought a custom, lined wooden box from Jay for the prop and as a result, years later, my Cube-A_libre still looks great.

No box is provided with Read-A-Libre, not even a cardboard box. I found this to be quite irritating. I would have GLADLY paid the extra money to have a custom carrying case included with the prop rather than have to place a separate order. Again, it's not the money but the irritation.

Props like this need to be looked at as an investment and I know most prop builders do not provide cases in order to keep costs down, but I really feel an option should have been made for working guys like me who already know the prop's going to travel.

HANDLING: The props handling is smooth and reliable just like the numbered 1-6 version.

ROUTINE: Here's where things get...interesting. One of my pet peeves of the 'classic' way of performing Cube-A-Libre has been the fact that many performers have wayyyy too many phases so the impact is lessoned. In my classic numbered Cube-A-Libre handling, I have 4 changes, which is just about right for a tight 5 minute routine.

In other handlings, I've seen 7 or 8 changes and it just gets old. I saw a DVD performance of such a presentation and the first few changes blew everyone away but by the end, you couldn't hear a peep.

Jay's routine for Read-A-Libre is like that. Parts of the the routine are very good, but other parts are just too esoteric, in the effort of trying to connect an educational lesson to the prop. I've performed in thousands of schools and I've used Cube-A-Libre hundreds and hundreds of times so I can say without a shadow of doubt that a routine of 7 or 8 changes is too much for most school or library audiences.

That said, I learned the routine, promptly cut it half, took the parts I liked and at the first performance, got a very strong reaction.

MY RATING: I like half of Jay's routine and I LOVE a customed Read-A-Libre for reading theme shows, but I gotta take a couple points off for the 'no box' thing and the fact that half of the routine just meanders in a way that will confuse kids and bore them. Half the routine is very good and the props look and work great. 8 out of 10.

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