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Live From The Living Room 3-DVD Set Review

Official Review

August 28th, 2015 1:38am
Rating:
Reviewed by James Sanden
“Live From the Living Room” is a 3 DVD set by Christopher Barnes teaching his birthday party magic show. The set includes footage of Mr. Barnes’ entire birthday party show, explanations for all the tricks he performs and an extensive section on controlling kids that goes far beyond traditional behavior management techniques.

The set begins with a full performance of Mr. Barnes birthday party magic show in a client’s living room. The design of the show is focused on creating as many interactions with the audience as possible, including not just laughter and gasps of astonishment, but also pointing, wiggling fingers, saying the magic words, etc. The show contains a broad range of effects, including classic kids routines like sucker silk to egg, blendo, multiplying bananas, a silk production apparatus effect and the Axtell Drawing Board. But Mr. Barnes also performs several effects that are rarely seen in a kid’s show, including a version of the $100 bill switch and a broken and restored pop tart.

A number of the routines and moments in the show demonstrated an impressive level of sophistication, particularly for a kid’s show. The continually growing banana trick, the disappearing sock trick and the broken and restored pop tart are all examples of routines that are different, exciting and very entertaining. As part of teaching these routines Mr. Barnes introduces the idea of “Theatrical Magic,” or magic that occurs more by implication than in reality, an approach I look forward to implementing more in my own work. Beyond the specific routines, the show also had a number of through lines, call backs and structural elements that greatly increased the quality of the performance.

The explanation section appears to have been filmed in a child’s bedroom with Mr. Barnes wearing footie pajamas. I don’t quite understand this choice, and assume it was in an effort to make the DVD more entertaining (the opening credits parody Saturday Night Live’s credits, and the section on kid control is filmed as if Mr. Barnes was the guest on a talk show.) The main problem with this decision is that it impacted the quality of instruction. Because he wasn’t in costume and using his actual table and backdrop, he had to substitute furniture and items from the child’s bedroom to explain the effects, which gave a unprepared feel to this section.

Location aside, the instruction was clear and covered what one would need to know to perform the routines seen in the show. However, not much theory or background was offered as to the development, structure and goals of each routine, nor were many of the interstitial elements (call backs, running gags and overall show structure) discussed. I realize the majority of magic releases don’t cover these topics, but in most magic DVD’s what one is buying is the secret. In this case, most of the material is in the public domain, and much of it is not just marketed items, but expensive marketed items, including the aforementioned Axtell Drawing Board, “Sugar High” by Chris Randall and “Animation Sensation” by Sean Bogunia, the methods for which are (understandably) not taught. For this reason, and this is particularly true in the case of kid shows where gags and bits of business are paramount, it would have been valuable if the explanations discussed the script, gags and his overall approach to the show.

Still, the real value of this DVD set lies in the third disk, where Mr. Barnes discusses Kid Control. This section offers twenty different ideas geared toward making controlling the audience in one’s shows easier. These tips go far beyond behavior management techniques and could potentially transform one’s relationship to performing for kids. While this may sound hyperbolic, it’s not. Mr. Barnes has clearly given a great deal of thought as to not just how to get kids to behave the way a performer would like them to behave, but also to how to structure a show so that “good” behavior is a natural outgrowth of the performance. He includes clips of his own show on the DVD to illustrate not just how he uses the techniques, but where his own performance fell short, a brave and generous choice. He also includes some great tips that require one to look at one’s own show and relationship to performing in a sincere way that could potentially solve problems that don’t even, in the end, really exist. If it’s not obvious, I found this section refreshing, informative and, in fact, transformative. This disc alone is worth the price of the entire DVD set.

Mr. Barnes has clearly poured his heart and soul into his show, and given a great deal of thought as to how to be the best performer he can be and create the best show possible. While there are a number of routines, moments and ideas on this DVD set that are potentially worth adding to one’s own show, the real value is in having the opportunity to reflect on how one performs for children, and to evaluate one’s relationship to performance. If you perform for children, this set should be in your library.

Available at your favorite Murphy’s Magic dealer

Product info for Live From The Living Room 3-DVD Set

Publisher: Christopher Barnes
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $45.00
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Manufacturer's Description:

A companion DVD to BEYOND Look, Don't See, Christopher T.'s LIVE from the LIVING ROOM is a one-stop resource for kid show magic and inspiration!

LIVE from the LIVING ROOM! It's SATURDAY AFTERNOON!

Christopher T. Magician is consistently one of the top children's entertainers in the New York and New Jersey areas. A graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and BMI's very exclusive musical theatre songwriting program, Christopher is in a level and class all his own. An experienced kid show specialist who takes his magic, comedy, and goofing around very seriously!

As a follow-up to his remarkable book, BEYOND Look, Don't See: Furthering the Art of Children's Magic, Christopher T. Magician presents, LIVE from the LIVING ROOM, a companion 3-DVD set that delivers a one-stop shop and resource for kid show magic education, inspiration, and even (quite a bit of) perspiration.

Christopher T. Magician has wowed and transformed HUNDREDS of magicians around the world with his entertaining, hysterical, and educational YouTube series, CHRISTOPHER T. MAGICIAN PRESENTS!

The DVD set features over FIVE HOURS of never before seen footage and is divided into separate sections including, The Show, The Secrets, Bits of Show Business, and Magician Control, with each section providing detailed commentary and examples of delivering a well-plotted show in real time. The end result is a group of 7 to 9 year-olds rolling on the floor with laughter.

The Show does not feature a collection of "best of" clips, but a LIVE show presented from start-to-finish, so you'll see Christopher T. in action interacting with children and seeing his Magician Control techniques in action.

Every detail of the show is explained to a "T" in The Secrets portion of the DVD and in Bits of Show Business Christopher provides a fresh system for transforming your 'string-of-tricks' type magic show into an all-out satisfying piece of magical theatre.

And finally, in Magician Control his discussion of kid control attempts to change the way magicians think about controlling children. His techniques will leave kids following your EVERY 'command' without ever giving a SINGLE order.

Remember, you're getting over FIVE HOURS of never-before-seen footage and learning the methods of some of Christopher T. Magician's favorite routines developed over a decade of performing in living rooms in and around New York City.


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