Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mysterioso! So much to say.

Today marks 1 week since I saw "Mysterioso: Music, Magic, Mayham, and Mirth" with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, conducted by the wonderful Jack Everly, in Ottawa. Since then I've made notes, thought about it often, read others blog, discovered some background info, googled some of the magic tricks, and am still debating what sort of things I should write here. There's several options given the breadth of the program, I mean the Maestro himself described it as a "laundry list"!

But a rather classy laundry list it turned out to be. Considering strictly the entertainment aspect, it's probably one of the best shows I've attended. One of the first things I did when I got back to my computer was try to find where it was being performed again and if there was some way I could get there. Alas, there's nothing coming up. It debuted in Indianapolis last season, played in Baltimore the week before Ottawa, is planned for Edmonton in October, and Toronto is a big question mark since they don't have Mr. Everly scheduled for next season (gasp! No idea what they were thinking! But I'll probably have more on that next week). Anyhow, the conclusion I came to for what to write was to try and focus on smaller elements that haven't been mentioned in other blogs without giving away too much of the show. Bear with me, here goes. If you'd like some more details on the show's creation and specific acts (with pictures!) here's a great article that appeared in Magic Magazine.

As always the concert was filled with great arrangements and medleys. The "Mysterioso Overture" started with something I recognized and yet totally can't place. Of course I promptly forgot the melody so I haven't a hope of finding out what it was. "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" was also featured along with either the theme song from "Bewitched" or "I Dream of Jeannie".
The "Mysterioso Entr'acte" arranged by Everly, contained the other one. The "Entr'acte" was great! Among others, it contained "Substitutiary Locomotion" from Bedknobs and Broomsticks, a theme from Harry Potter, "Bibbidi, Bobbidi, Boo" from Cinderella, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" from Mary Poppins, the "Adam's Family" theme complete with orchestra snaps, and "Ghostbusters" including Mr. Everly turning to the audience, providing the narration, and pausing for the shouting of "Ghostbusters" in answer to "Who you gonna call?"

Another main orchestral piece of the evening was the "Spellbound Concerto". This is rather eerie sounding, but then what else is to be expected from something from an Alfred Hitchcock movie? It was enhanced by the playing of a theremin, which was really cool to see played live. A very, very unique sound is created without every actually touching either of the two antennas. One controls the pitch and the other the volume.

The more serious magic of Joseph Gabriel and his scarves to doves, doves to scarves (made all the more amazing when I read he had to use local birds since his weren't allowed to cross the border), cards into and out of thin air act , moved onto the hypnosis of an "audience member".

This person was the winner of "an experience", and she certainly entertained the rest of us. The "winner" was asked some of her favourite singers and then to sing a song, something perhaps from her childhood. She thought about this for a while and picked "The Sound of Music". The result reminded me of the theme from the old Mastercard commercials.

My take on that ad for the moment that followed:

Gasoline to Ottawa (round trip) - $60
Ticket to the NAC - $12.50
Look on Jack Everly's face when she turned to the orchestra after picking "The Sound of Music" and asked "Do you know that one?" - PRICELESS!

His expression was a perfect "are you kidding me?" and after a long pause he finally said, "yes but I think more importantly our pianist knows that one" and the piano started in with the opening chords.

They (Everly, Joseph Gabriel and the "audience member") demonstrated they're pretty good actors but once the singing under hypnosis started it didn't take long to figure out that the "audience member" was Christina Bianco who impersonated the vocal and performance stylings of Celine Dion, Bernadette Peters, Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Leanne Rimes, and Renee Fleming with amazing accuracy. She returned as herself in the second half to perform "It's Magic", "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered", "Neverland" from Peter Pan and "Defying Gravity" from Wicked. Some interesting trivia, Peter Pan starring Mary Martin was broadcast live on NBC in 1955, the first of this type of broadcast. This prompted Rodgers and Hammerstein II to be asked to create a musical for TV. They created Cinderalla which was shown live in 1957 on CBS starring Julie Andrews. They signed with CBS instead of NBC since CBS had already arranged for Julie Andrews and they wanted to work with her.

The orchestra struck up "S'Wonderful, S'Marvelous" to start the comedy magic of Les and Dazzle. Highlights of their act had to be the strip closet and the disappearing duck. That's right, we went from doves to a duck. I wonder if it was allowed into Canada or borrowed like the doves?

Intermission provided a
n opportunity to enjoying the theming of the stage. Big posters hung above the orchestra featuring the magicians of the evening as well as some classics from previous eras (The Great Leon-grandfather to Les Arnold, and Harry Houdini to name two).
There was even one titled "Back by Popular Demand: Maestro Jack Everly, The Magician of Music, Mystery, and Mirth". Created from what appears to be a modified promo photo (courtesy of the BSO website), although they made him look almost sinister by adding shadowing to his face.

However, leaving out the "magic" part didn't keep him out of the less musical yet still magical, portions of the evening. "The Great Everly" demonstrated his magical "feet" by first making his right, then left foot disappear. The set up was perfect and so there were calls of "both feet" from the audience, and sure enough, he complied. Not the most jaw dropping magic of the evening, but a neat interlude. The gravity defying cuing of the string sections was also pretty impressive (for pictures see the Magic article mentioned above).

Personally I really liked the "William Tear Overture". Complications of the English language allow this to mean either William is crying or being torn up into pieces. I read it as the first, which made no sense until the act started. Joseph Gabriel tip-toed onto the stage, snuck up to the podium, and snatched the score. Les appeared and a tug of war with the sheet music, which was now unfurled across the stage, began. The orchestra continued as Maestro Everly left the podium and walked across the stage following the music and cuing the musicians as he went. However, the score tore in half. The result was a pause of the music while he went from one half to the other. Eventually, the sheets were all ripped up, and he gave up and walked off while the orchestra played various parts of the Overture at the wrong time and in the wrong place (which must be rather hard to do when you're used to performing it properly). Thankfully Dazzle appeared with a glue bottle and magically the score suddenly reverted back to it's previous attached state in time for the orchestra to finish the piece together. I suppose this was more situational magic that was musically entertaining if not leaving you with the "wow" awe factor, but I enjoyed it.

That "wow" factor was initially established by Joseph Gabriel, added to by Les and Dazzle, but solidified by the quick change artists David and Dania who closed the show. They left you with the "how did they do that?" dumbstruck look on your face as she changed dresses before your eyes in seconds. Amazing. A quick youtube search will find videos of their performances on America's Got Talent a few years ago.

It was a fantastically entertaining evening. The magic ranged from the simple to complex, although always well executed without getting cheesy and the NACO was showcased which is always great. Next up for the pops segment of Symphonic March Madness "Pops Goes Vegas" with the TSO!

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