My Time In Vegas

Although I’m still here for a few more days I wanted to share some thoughts about a few shows that I’ve seen here. In addition to my own opinions, I’ll include some thoughts of my non-magician friend who accompanied me to each show.

Gerry McCambridge
Gerry’s show was the first one we attended and he had quite a high turnout. He opened with a phone book routine that involved 8 or 9 people from the audience. Using as many audience members as possible was a recurring theme and it worked well. Overall, there was a good structure and flow to the routines and everything held together thematically. My favorite routine (and judging by audience reaction, theirs as well) was Gerry’s Q&A. Maximum of spectator involvement and everyone had a blast during that portion of the show. The initial setup for the Q&A was very direct and everything seemed completely fair and above board. Well done on every level. My biggest criticism would be that a few times during the show Gerry made audience volunteers somewhat uncomfortable. He wasn’t malicious or criticizing them per se, but there was definitely an undercurrent that made more than one volunteer uncomfortable, which made the audience uncomfortable as well. The audience seemed somewhat subdued and my guess is that they were a little more non-responsive than a “regular” crowd. Gerry did a great job getting everyone into the mood and really building the excitement in the room throughout the presentation. Would definitely recommend this show.

My friend Bob (unlike Jamie D. Grant’s “Angry Bob”, this isn’t a pseudonym, his name really is Bob) liked the show as well. His favorite bits were the Q&A and the finale where each audience member had a numbered nerf basketball and threw them up on stage trying to sink them into one of 6 different basketball nets (which were tied at the bottom). First ball in is the one “locked” into that position. An audience member then read a prediction which had been hanging on the back of the nets from the beginning of the show and of course, he was spot on. One critique was that the reveals took too long. For example, for the phone book reveal, he did it in three phases–one spectator held up the first number of Gerry’s prediction, then two specatators, then the last 4 at once. Bob’s comment was that by the time you got to the last four, it was anti-climactic and already a foregone conclusion that he would be right. He also didn’t care for the spike routine which used 4 nail guns. His opinion did not seem representative of the rest of the room which were very tense and emotionally invested in the outcome. Those things aside, he enjoyed the show as well.

Penn and Teller
These guys have been talked about to death so I’ll be brief. Wonderful performance. They are both great showmen and really know how to work the crowd. The selection of effects were all varied and they kept audience interest piqued throughout the show. P&T also used a lot of audience members but they were warmer and more inviting than in the previous show. Two favorite bits–first, the opening where a box on stage is open (so the audience can see into it) and the audience is invited on stage to examine said box. Hundreds of people made their way to the stage checked everything out, front and back. The box was sitting on large casters and from my perspective could see underneath the box as well. The box was closed, Penn came out on stage and Teller emerged from the previously empty box. It was a nice way to open the show. My second favorite bit was the book test. They used a pile of joke books, from which two were eventually selected (non-equivoque, a generally free choice) and examined to be free from guile. The books were passed through different portions of the audience and two different spectators were eventually chosen. From their seats, they opened the books to a random page and chose a random joke from that page. P&T never left the stage. Penn, without fishing, quoted the joke they had mentally selected. My biggest critique is that they push their “anti-mentalist” agenda way too hard. They stood on that soap box a little too long for my liking. That notwithstanding, a very entertaining show. Highly recommended.

Bob liked the show a lot as well. His favorite things were the bullet catch and the big twist when a spectator is brought up on stage and uses a camera to catch Penn out in a close-up setting. Can’t say more about that one or it’d give away the game. But it is a very entertaining routine. He didn’t have any substantive critiques. Very well organized, very well done.

Paul Vigil
This performance took place in a smaller bar in the Mirage casino called “King Ink.” It was the most intimate performance of the group and Paul gave a great show. His style is distinctly theatrical in tone, while at the same time plays things somewhat tongue-in-cheek. There were between 25-30 people watching as Paul went through a series of effects that genuinely had people excited and involved. He used nearly everyone in the audience and was very warm and inviting. There was only one effect that didn’t directly involve members of the audience (a coin matrix). It was a pretty seamless blend of magic and mentalism, although thinking back he only did one or two magic effects. There was even a situation where the spectator made a choice that could have caused a problem, but Paul without missing a beat navigated his way back on course, with a smile and easy manner that never betrayed that anything was amiss. My highlights were his encore where he brought out a phone book and had audience members decide on a page, column and ultimately, a phone number. A spectator selected a playing card, sight unseen. Then with a [b]borrowed phone[/b] he dialed the number (visibly and in plain view) and spoke to the proprietor (we were in the yellow pages section of the phone book) who named the playing card that was sitting face down on table and hadn’t been seen by anyone. It wasn’t until after the performance that a moment of inspiration struck me and I stumbled on the method, which is quite ingenious. If I steal it from him later on, I’ll be sure to give him full credit. 😉 He also had a great version of the classic tossed out deck. Nearly every routine could have been considered a highlight. He didn’t peform any quick throw-away material. Everything was wonderfully framed and performed. He really gave all the astonishing moments their space to breathe and still knew when to come back and keep things moving. A beautiful performance from a seasoned performer. 5-stars!

Surprisingly, of the three performances this was Bob’s favorite “by a mile.” He said what jumped out at him was the way Paul treated the audience members that were assisting him. He couldn’t have been more welcome and more inviting and immediately put everyone at ease. He always asked for the audience to give the assistant a hand when they were going back to their seat as well. He really put the spotlight on the helpers in a way that you don’t see with most performers. His favorite routines were the “which hand?” routine that Paul actually performed with Bob, the coin matrix, and a lovely progressing dice routine where under increasingly impossible conditionss he was able to determine the value of the dice, ending with a spectator determining a die’s value. He was also quite impressed with the phone call encore (see above).

All of the performers were terrific and I wouldn’t hesitate to see any of them again. If you find yourself out in Vegas, check these guys out.