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The Magic Of Suzanne: The Castle Act (2 DVD Set) Review

Official Review

August 27th, 2015 1:48pm
Rating:
Reviewed by Dr. J. M. Ayala de Cedoz
I was pleasantly surprised, quite frankly, when I saw this video. I knew before seeing this that Suzanne was a great performer, having seen various video clips of her performing in the past couple of years. What I was surprised about was how long she has actually been doing this act - and it shows!

The characters that she presents on stage were very distinctly different and it was apparent as the show progressed. I was very entertained by everything she was doing from the get-go!

When she first comes out and starts the show, she is that high-energy, playful character that is having some fun with the audience, kind of poking some fun at situations, etc. The second character was more subdued, one that held some mystical inner power without overstating it and at the same time, the character and the effect connected with the volunteer because it was centered around something that every single human has experienced at least once in their lives. The last character was still further subdued - more knowledgeable, this character showed humility and experience which could only have come with time.

If you are familiar with the brand of teaching of Jeff McBride, you may recognize this as the progression from being the Trickster, to the Sorcerer and finally, the Oracle. I would not say that she has reached the status of the Sage just yet - she is too young in her years but her knowledge and persona definitely exhibit some of the traits of the Sage.

I bring up Jeff McBride here because she was a student of his Magic and Mystery School, also having spent some time with Eugene Burger there, which also shows in the way she performs and structures her show.

Wow - I have already said a bit here and not one mention of an effect. Okay, what she is performing on this disc is pretty basic stuff and most of it is magic that we have all seen quite a number of times, BUT, it is still very entertaining. Why? Well, for one she does not spit out the typical presentations for these effects, but she put her own spin on them and makes them very unique to her style, her personality and her characters.

The first set of effects she did was an Ambitious Card, which started with a double blank deck. The lighting was good but the cards were washed out by the light, so I missed that first few moments before I realized that the cards were blank (more on this in a minute). She never says that the cards are blank, she just goes about treating them like a regular deck and has the volunteer choose a card. This goes to show you the true power of assumption.

There were some very funny bits with this set because at one point, she has the blank card signed and eventually, the whole deck turns into a fully printed deck of regular cards. I have to say that the finale of the card set fooled me the first time I watched this - badly. I knew what she was doing, but I missed the moment that she executed the move and I got caught. This comes back to her ability to entertain very, very well...

The next effect was one I had seen her do in various video clips and I was surprised to find out that it is not her effect, because it was so different and the way that she presents it, I thought it was. It is a transposition effect of a drawing on the pad of a Band-Aid. This was very well-presented and the audience is left with a great souvenir.

The final set was pretty much the age-old Cups and Balls sequence of Al Schneider, with only a move or two that were changed to suit Suzanne herself. This is an absolutely beautiful presentation piece with a great hook and a wonderful story. I would say that on top of the great visuals with the great story, one of the best parts about this effect is the way it causes the audience to create the magic in their own minds, pitting the story against their own personal experiences. Deep stuff if you think about it.

That is pretty much the whole act. Now get this: This is the same stuff - the only stuff, that she has been performing for the last 25 or 30 years! Again, this just proves that you do not need a vast repertoire to make a living or even just to entertain people.

I mentioned the lighting earlier: The sound was very good but the video was not as HD as HD should be. It was clear enough to see what is going on, but there were a few points where white (or light objects) would get washed out a bit. I am not sure what it is about these videos but just about every VHS (remember those?!) and DVD I have seen that was shot in the Magic Castle has this lighting issue, no matter how good the camera work is. Other videos I have seen which were filmed in the Castle were pretty bad quality (grainy, hard to see, etc.) I mentioned that you kind of lose a bit of that punch at the beginning because you do not realize the cards are all blank for the first few minutes, so you kind of get robbed of the surprise. That washout issue was pretty much the only video issue for this disc.

The volunteer that Suzanne used for the main performance was pretty blitzed - he was not quite to that 'stupid drunk' stage and was still coherent enough to participate playfully with Suzanne. Most performers would have already booted him in favor of someone much more sober, but she kept him on for almost the whole show and I am glad she did! It shows the viewers exactly how to handle just such a spectator, which for many of us can be a very common experience.

One thing I really appreciated was that you could watch the main performance and a few other performances of the set segments with and without commentary. This was a great feature because you get inside her head and learn why she chose to use a particular effect, or say what she did or do what she did at any given time or how she would handle different aspects. There is also a Q&A on the first disc and there is a little bit of crossover between the two DVDs, but that is hardly worth mentioning.

The menu on both discs was easy to navigate but there is no Play All button.

The second disc is where you will learn some of the effects in the card set, but that is it. She does not really teach anything more than that and that is okay, since this DVD set is not about teaching effects, but rather more of the philosophy of performance character, style and presentation. For the parts that she does teach, she does a good job and she is joined by the twin of Matt Damon (who is probably unaware that he has this twin). Magician Matt Marcy did a good job of asking her to cover certain things again from maybe a different angle or more thoroughly if she happened to gloss over something a little too quickly. That said, she is still a good teacher.

For the rest of the effects that she did not teach, she gave full credit and references to the creators. She also does this for the effects that she does explain - she is very thorough with her crediting.

I will also mention that after she teaches a particular portion of an effect (or discusses it) you see a clip of that particular portion being performed live in front of an audience.

She also talks about her history in magic and her professional background before that. She talks about being a student of Al Schneider which, if you are familiar with his particular brand of magic, you can see his influence on her as well. It was very interesting to see how she progressed from being in computers to being a magician, and a very good one at that! I have long said that we (as magicians) need more female magicians in the profession. There are many good female performers out there but Suzanne is one of the best I have ever seen.

This is a great DVD set with lots of very valuable information in it - even if she had not explained a single thing as far as effects are concerned, there is still plenty of things to be learnt from the information that she provides and through her discussions with Matt Marcy and even on her commentary tracks.

One bit of advice if you decide to purchase this: Watch as much of the first disc as you want but skip the Q&A until after you have watched the second disc.

I think the price for this was fair considering that you get two discs (which I think probably could have been all on one). Most two-disc sets cost at least $60/USD.

If you have no inherent interest in learning anything that is on this disc, the few effects or the unique philosophies of Suzanne, get this anyway because if you are a magician, you will at least be entertained by the performance!

I am docking the rating here by a half star for the little bit of video quality issue, but overall I am going to give it five stars.

Very, very highly recommended!

Available at your favorite Murphy’s Magic dealer

Product info for The Magic Of Suzanne: The Castle Act (2 DVD Set)

Author: Suzanne
Publisher: Anthony Asimov Magic
Average Rating:  (4)
Retail Price: $39.95
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Manufacturer's Description:

"A joy to watch! From her opening to her closer, Suzanne's thinking and personality are on full display. Suzanne's magic is proof that strong magic powered by personality will deliver exceptional results! Watch... Listen... Learn."
- Paul Gertner

"Suzanne is a magician who has studied, worked, and walks the walk. Her routines combine a sure knowledge of technique with a gift for construction. On top of it all lies her searingly unstoppable brand of showmanship. She is, simply put, a powerhouse."
- David Regal

"For a long time, no one had ever heard of Suzanne because she had been working all the time. I met her 30 years ago and have been tracking her career ever since. She has the kind of chops that one gets after doing this 10,000 times. Now, as Close-Up Magician of the Year, she has decided to share some of the real secrets of magic... Not only the how but the why... sign me up for this information!"
- Doc Eason

"Yes, she has the skill, the showmanship, the energy, and all those other things that make for a great close-up performer. More than that, Suzanne shows her human side. This is what makes an entertainer stand out, more so than what he or she does, because it forges a bond, an emotional connection, that turns spectators into fans -- and performers into stars. And that's what Suzanne is: a star."
- Ariel Frailich

"The Magic of Suzanne: The Castle Act" is ISSUE #4 in the Black Rabbit Series, which features outstanding professional magicians from around the world who perform full shows for live un-coached audiences.

Suzanne is the only woman to win the coveted "Close-Up Magician of the Year" award from the Academy of Magical Arts (The Magic Castle). In this 2-DVD set, you will learn Suzanne's valuable secrets on how to properly structure a magical performance to create a standout show, as well as some fabulous magic. If you want to become a better performer of magic, get ready for some serious note taking!

Volume 1
Filmed live at The Magic Castle, you'll be captivated by the same show that consistently earns Suzanne standing ovations, and ultimately won her the prestigious award. Suzanne performs her most famous effects: "Let's Play Together," "Coming Home III," "A Mother's Love," and "The Journey." Also included are three commentaries, each one taking you further inside Suzanne's thinking as she analyzes and discusses her own performances. Alternate live performances of her favorite routines, a 30-minute interview in which Suzanne talks about her unique magical journey, and footage from her acceptance of the "Close-Up Magician of the Year" award, are also featured.

Volume 2
Go behind the scenes with Suzanne and guest host, Matt Marcy, as they explain step-by-step how to perform "Let's Play Together" and "Coming Home III," Suzanne's workhorse card routines that she's relied on for decades. Suzanne even discusses her unique deck switcher in detail, a device she uses in every performance. You will also be inspired by thought-provoking discussions on how to create a signature trick, how to find the perfect story for a routine, and how to incorporate archetypes into your show to craft a dynamic character-driven performance.


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