SPOOKSTERS OF MAGIC PAST AND PRESENT
Illusions in the Night Review 1992
by Mark Holstein
My wife Sue and I had the pleasure of seeing the final performance of David Seebach's 'Illusions in the Night' on Nov 1, 1992. the show, which ran for three consecutive weekends, was presented at the Modjeska Theatre in Milwaukee, a grand old movie palace which was recently restored. The thunderstorm outside set the mood for this Halloween production.
The overture started on time. As the theatre darkened, the curtain opened on an eerily lit stage. The music built to a crescendo and David appeared in a puff of smoke (Flash Appearance). A well paced Sympathetic Silk routine followed. using orange and black silks and pumpkin head receptacles, to set this holiday's theme.
Next, Seebach removed three Halloween costumes from a beautiful Costume. Trunk. A young audience volunteer selected one costume (coincidentally, the skimpiest of the three) and a lovely young lady appeared from the trunk, wearing the selected costume.
After a few words of welcome, David introduced Jim Steinmeyer's Oriqami Box, (Yes, this prop was fully authorized!) The illusion has been one of my favorites since Doug Henning first introduced it and Davids audience certainly enjoyed it. Seebach's version included a striking costume change.
A rope routine was next and allowed the very warm and enthusiastic audience to meet their magician and enjoy his humor. The routine featured a very funny gag where David asked his volunteer a number of questions. Through some electronic chicanery, the volunteer consistently repeated herself. This gag was very funny and absolutely floored the special guest to the show.
The curtain opened on the largest and most intimidating Guillotine in the world of magic. David's version of this classic has been perfected with years of presentation. Seebach's wife, Lisa, really shines during this presentation. Her facial expressions, poses and terrific comic ability really sold this illusion.
Back to spooky lighting and foq for the Impaled Illusion. This illusion has great visual impact and the audience gasped right on cue when the young lady fell through the sword. David now displayed his fine speaking voice and ability as a storyteller as he introduced Matilda's Wardrobe, a very clever spirit cabinet prop. Tambourines rang and ropes knotted within the empty cabinet. Finally, a beautiful assistant appeared.
Having escorted us into the spirit world, Seebach asked to borrow 'a folded pocket handkerchief' and presented the classic Dancinq Handkerchief. At the end, the handkerchief danced offstage. Seebach followed, only to be chased back by the handkerchief's 'older brother' (an eight foot tall version of the handkerchief).
A brief narrative on the history of the sawing illusion introduced the BUZZ Saw. Frankly, this has never been a favorite of mine. However, it is hard to deny that it makes a biq impression on the audience and this is the bottom line. Clever costuming improved the illusion greatly. I have to admit that my heart stopped momentarily when one of Seebach's assistants entered the framework cabinet while the blade was still spinning. Yikes!
David introduced the intermission next with promises of 'scary stuff" in Act Two.
Act Two began with one of Seebach's assistants demonstrating her Halloween costume by covering herself with a large sheet to become a ghost. 'Of course,' Seebach explained, 'if the ghost was real, there would be nothinq under the sheet' And there wasn't! A very clever presentation of the DeKolta Chair.
The curtain opened on a spectacular Egyptian stage setting for a presentation of the Disembodied Princess. The illusion was great, but he scenery, costuming and lighting really stole the show.
A great bit with a boy from the audience followed. The boy was given an opportunitiy to win some Halloween candy by answering three 'easy' questions. Along the way, some scarves vanished, some candy appeared, and many clever lines and bits or business were done. A highlight!
The Shadowbox is my favorite stage illusion. Seebach's version has several original touches. After her appearance, the young lady levitated and vanished (Asrah). It is worth noting that the lighting on this illusion was very bright and still nothing was visible.
Sitting on a footstool, Seebach told the legend of an ancient forger whose hand was severed as punishment for his crime. Seebach removed the skeletal remains of the hand from an elegant hardwood chest. As the legend explained, he who possessed the hand became the forger. The legend, while a bit long, did effectively set the stage for Seebach's presentation of Lee Earle's clever Clone Pad. David correctly duplicated a drawing made by an audience member.
The curtain rose for the finale, revealing a spectacular scene featuring a giant devil with glowing eyes. Shades of Dante!
Seebach's presentation of the Modern Cabinet, familiar to Abbott Magic Get Together regulars was first. Three cloth covered 'blobs' were uncovered to reveal two bikini clad ladies and, of course, David Seebach.
Burning Alive followed. While not a favorite of mine, it was very visual and very appropriate.
Suddenly, and without warning, the theatre completely blacked out. Seebach's offstage voice warned that an unusually high level of spirit activity had been detected in the theatre and that he could not predict what would occur. With that, glowing skulls, ghosts, demons, skeletons, and other apparitions appeared and flew throughout the theatre. For those of us too young to remember the heyday of the Ghost Show, it was a great opportunity to see these effects. Several flashes and explosions and the theatre returned to normal. This routine was also greatly enjoyed by Seebach's mystery guest!
Seebach and wife Lisa returned to the stage to assure their audience that all was safe - that the spirits had left the theatre. with that, the audience gave Seebach and Company a lengthy ovation.
The production values were first class. The props, costumes, scenery, and sound were of the highest caliber. The show was approximately two hours long and seemed shorter. There were no visible technical gaffs and no stage waits.
Seebach's crew, under the longtime direction of stage manager Brian LeBoeuf, deserves special kudos. This was a big, complex show. During a backstage visit after the show, I discovered that there was almost no offstage wing space. David's crew overcame the obstacles and the difficulties were not apparent from out front.
I would recommend that you make the trip to Milwaukee to see next year's installment.
Editors Note: The special guest mentioned twice in this article was none other than David Copperfield.
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