Review: The Spencers

The Spencers
24 February 2012 @Mayo Performing Arts Center,  Morristown, NJ

My god, they hauled all these props for a single night’s performance? These guys are

Magic Magazine. March 2011. Vol 20, No 7.

Magic Magazine. March 2011. Vol 20, No 7.

troupers. Let them be known as The Willard’s of our generation.

The Spencers opened, in front of a custom backdrop (which we would get to know well throughout the course of the evening) with Steinmeyer’s Modern Art. Though only in a regional community theater, it was a very large theater and the slim box seemed dwarfed by the size of the stage. I thought “Could they pull this off?”

The curtain closed and Kevin Spencer came out in front and spoke for the first time. I was relieved to find his manner relaxed and calm. He is in fact quite likeable, even to this sophisticated near-broadway crowd. He performed Gene Anderson’s Torn and Restored Newspaper with our local paper – a nice touch. The jokes weren’t stock, and cleverly toyed with the idea of struggling newspapers. We were beginning to like this guy…

Next up was some audience interaction – rings penetrating an audience member’s arm. I had a non-magician friend with me and he found the method utterly transparent. Indeed, it seemed a large box to travel with for such a small effect.

Next up, Walking Through a Brick Wall. I hadn’t seen this illusion before (could it be that the Spencer’s have a Steinmeyer exclusive?) and it was the highlight of the show – for me. It is a complete fooler. However, strangely, it received very little reaction from the audience. Either they were in stunned silence, or didn’t appreciate the effect. The routine requires careful pacing, which they gave it.  I’ll be honest – I’m not sure what fell flat here.  It could be that the sucker by-play in an early phase looked just a little too much like the real-deal.  Against the enormous stage, the penetration may have looked too two-dimensional; thus the assumption that he went behind the wall just too great for audience’s to dismiss.  Or maybe their were simply too many youngsters in the audience to appreciate this more cerebral illusion.

The second half opened with a Cube-Zag.  I don’t understand this illusion.  Is it a penetration?  A cutting in half? Are we to think she has disappeared? And yet – the audience reaction was tremendous!  Well beyond what I would have expected.  Perhaps it was a result of the intermission.  Perhaps it was that Mrs. Spencer had a few extra pounds (when compared to the smaller assistants).  Or maybe I’ve simply underestimated the impact of this illusion…

Mental Epic was next.  Another successful opportunity to establish a rapport with the audience as he predicted their selections.  He really sold the prediction of the items in advance.  My only complaint – there seemed to be no “theme” tying the various items he asked them to predict/select.

Next, I was surprised by an old chestnut: the Gozinta Box.  It went over well with his Pom-Pom-Pole-like-Patter.  This routine definitely works for him.

The curtains open again while Kevin tells the story of how he began in magic.  Though certainly sounding schmaltzy here, he really breaks through here by performing a routine he claims is his first in magic (with a Botania?  Yeah, right… ).  He follows logically with a “Where do the feet go?” illusion built around a cardboard box.  It makes sense, and he adds a bit of vulnerability by sharing what is ostensibly a routine from his youth.  This logically follows with a Multiplying bottle routine.  Kevin improves what I think is a fairly transparent trick (in general) by adding a couple of foolers with a silk into the mix, but overall it’s not enough to overcome the trick’s weakness.

Then, he takes a final breather with a “now-move-three-times” type mental illusion in which every audience member gets to choose one of nine cities to “visit”.  The showed played outside of New York City, which was one of the choices.  Oddly, no departure from his script was made when that city was removed from the mix and the light was switched off.  Considering the customization of the newspaper routine earlier in the show – I expected better.

Another quick interlude with an off-the-shelf Pom-Pom Pole, with the off-the-shelf patter to match.  If the write up sounds similar to the Gozinta Box description – that’s because it was.

Finally, he ends by filling the stage with Steinmeyer’s Windshear.   This was my first time seeing it live.  One thing I hadn’t appreciated having seen it on TV so many times was the impact of having an actual spinning fan pointed at you.  It really does bring in an additional sense into the mix; besides seeing and hearing the fan revolve, one feels it as well.  An exhilarating, and action packed illusion. It pumped the audience back up for the exit, and of course is very deceptive.  It quite simply, was the right trick with which to end the show.

Better start loading it up for the next town…

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