The Illusionists: Witness The Impossible

The IllusionistsMagic is making a spectacular comeback thanks to the likes of the seven outstanding world class magicians that make up The Illusionists.  With a grand display of energetic dance, strobe lighting and pyrotechnics as well as support from a rocking live band, this is more than “just a magic show”.

The Trickster (Jeff Hobson) is the honorary host of the evening and he quickly forms a great rapport with the audience with his unique blend of magic and comedy.  His excellent aptitude at sleight of hand tricks along with his comically camp and cheeky antics with the crowd will both amuse and thoroughly entertain.

Dan Sperry, the Anti-Conjuror, appears intimidating and slightly sinister with his Marilyn Manson appearance but yet is also strangely alluring; he easily draws you in to his macabre world of impressive shock illusions – prepare to gasp and definitely cringe.  He leads you to believe he is a silent magician but his nail-biting game of Russian Roulette at the end proves he is quite the conversationalist.

The Inventor (Kevin James) is the embodiment of the art form as he seemingly magics things out of thin air and creates the impossible.  From physically putting together a person before our eyes to dismembering another, this unassuming but extremely skilled magician will leave you gobsmacked.

Philip Escoffey, The Mentalist, is a mind reader with swagger and a wry sense of humor which worked very well with his set.  I felt he had the greatest performance arc – initially coming across as not very convincing and rather facetious, he then proceeds to miraculously predict things that he couldn’t have possibly known.

The Gentleman (Mark Kalin) and The Enchantress (Jinger Leigh) are the archetypal magician and magician’s assistant duo and they use theatrics to give classic magic an added wow factor.  This brilliant duo are the consummate illusionists; their reinvented version of the infamous “sawing woman in half” and a literally gravity-defying trick will astound you.

Andrew Basso rounds up the ensemble as The Escapologist and as his name suggests, his skill is death-defying escapes.  This is the only time in the evening where the theater is devoid of sound and rife with tension; it was truly remarkable witnessing the escape unfold live before your eyes – I only wish he had another escape up his sleeve!

This sensational and spellbinding evening is complemented perfectly by Los Angeles band Z who kept the energy and excitement pumping from start to finish.  Additionally the large screen above that captures a close up view of what is happening on stage helps everyone be in on the action and is especially handy for the more intricate illusions.

The Illusionists is a visual spectacle that will impress, amaze and just blow your mind.  The seven magicians are absolute masters at their craft – prepare to be enthralled by an epic medley of jaw-dropping and extraordinary illusions.  You will witness the impossible.

The Whimsical Banana rates The Illusionists: 5/5 bananas!

The Illusionists will be at the majestic Civic Theatre until 2nd June.  This is an unmissable show so don’t miss out – get your tickets today!
Performance Times: Wed to Sat 7.30pm, Saturdays 2pm, Sundays 11am & 3pm, Tues 28 May, 6.30pm

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NZICF 2013: Danny Bhoy – Dear Epson…

Danny Bhoy

Danny Bhoy is no stranger to the comedy circuit and has always been a Kiwi favorite thus needs no introduction.  Every time he visits our shores, he is definitely one of the most anticipated acts of the comedy festival.

Dear Epson… is quite different from his previous shows but still has all the hallmarks of what fans have grown to expect and love at a Danny Bhoy gig.  After a fleeting too funny “too soon” Anne Frank reference and some friendly banter with the audience, Danny explains to the audience the story behind Dear Epson.

A year ago, Danny purchased an Epson printer only to realize soon after that the ink required was more expensive than the printer itself.  Infuriated by this absurdity, an irate Danny took to pen and paper and wrote a letter of complaint to the printer company, demanding an explanation.  This letter sparked a snowball effect and soon he found himself writing to other corporations that have angered him over the years.  Oil of Olay (formerly Oil of Ulay), Vodafone, British Airways – Danny shows them no mercy, exposing them for their empty marketing promises.

Danny is a gifted and skilled storyteller and excellent wordsmith – he effortlessly has the audience hanging on to his every word through his natural gift of the gab and irresistible charm.  The letters of complaint are brilliantly crafted prose; compelling, witty and delivered flawlessly. After letter number three, Danny takes a breather and assures us that the show is “not all ranting and raving”.

In between the collection of letters, Danny also treats us with entertaining and hilarious stories from his life, like the awkward encounter he had with a German shopkeeper when he was Christmas shopping, his determination to not be bested by a waiter at a Michelin-star restaurant and my personal favorite, his amusing but oh-so-true “rules of receiving canapés”.

Dear Epson… is observational comedy at its best and this time with added cleverly channeled consumer rage.  Laughter really is the best medicine and Danny Bhoy is the perfect remedy.

The Whimsical Banana rates Dear Epson…: 5/5 bananas!

Danny Bhoy has finished his Auckland and Wellington run but will be performing in Dunedin (tickets here) and Christchurch (tickets here) on May 6th and 7th respectively for ONE night only.  Tickets go like hot cakes so get in quick!

This review can also be found on Keeping Up With NZ.

NZICF 2013: Comedy Gala

Comedy Gala 2013

And we’re off!  The New Zealand International Comedy Festival officially launched on Friday night with the inaugural comedy gala.

This year marks the Comedy Festival’s 21st year and I couldn’t think of a better venue to commemorate this milestone than at the majestic Civic Theatre.  Hosted by comedy veteran and 7 Days host Jeremy Corbett, the gala was a laughs aplenty marathon featuring a stellar lineup of 21 local and international comedians.

With just four minutes to impress us and form a lasting impression, Corbett likens the night to speed dating which is a great way to describe it!  For the comedy-uninitiated, the gala provides the perfect tasting plate for what is on offer during the festival for the next three weeks.

From gripes about how we rely on smartphones for everything to taboo toilet humor to a skit about a hen’s night gone wrong, there was plenty to laugh about!  A stand out for me was Chris Martin who I thought did a brilliant set – I will never look at pugs the same way again!  Newcomer James Acaster had the crowd sold from the word “apricots”; I thought his low energy set was an unexpected but welcome change of pace – I really enjoyed his unassuming yet incredibly witty style of comedy.

The locals were natural crowd favorites using good ol’ colloquial Kiwi humor to tickle our funny bone.  And of course no gala will be the same without New Zealand’s claim to fame in the comedic world, the wonderful The Boy with Tape on his Face!  He did one of my personal favorite bits from More Tape and I was delighted to see that there have been a couple of tweaks since last year’s season.

If you didn’t manage to get a ticket and are gutted you missed out, don’t fret!  The event was filmed and this will be broadcast tonight (Sunday) at 8:35pm – or 9:35pm if you have TV3 +1!

I would also like to take this opportunity to plug the TV3 People’s Choice Award.  This award coincides with a very cool competition with an über awesome prize – all you have to do is vote for your favorite local comedian – and you and a friend and the comedian you voted for could be headed to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival!

It’s going to be a busy and laugh-filled next few weeks and I’m looking forward to every minute of it!  For dates, tickets and all things NZICF, head on over to www.comedyfestival.co.nz

Go on, New Zealand.  It’s time to Laugh Yourself Silly!

Review: The Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Musical

Last weekend, I was transported back to my childhood in a flurry of colorful costumes, energetic song and dance, and a wonderfully dynamic set.  After an incredibly successful season of Jersey Boys, Mary Poppins was easily the next most anticipated musical event of the year and I’m not at all surprised to say it doesn’t disappoint and exceeded my every expectation!

Whether you’re a fan of the 1964 Walt Disney film or the original canon penned by P.L. Travers, this stage musical co-created by Cameron Mackintosh and directed masterfully by Richard Eyre is a whole new magical experience.  Aside from a fabulous top notch cast and fantastic support from a live orchestra, this production makes full use of the stage boasting an array of delightful props as well as visual and special effects that will amaze and enthrall you from start to finish.

According to Mary Poppins herself, you will look like a codfish doing so but I just couldn’t help myself – for most of it, my mouth was hanging open in awe at the magic of it all.  With an impressive constantly changing, ever moving set and featuring both the old classics as well as catchy new songs, this timeless well-loved story is visually breathtakingly beautiful and an absolute joy to hear.

Rachel Wallace is perfectly cast as the titular character, portraying the magical nanny skillfully with an air of grace, unwavering dignity and great finesse.  She really was “practically perfect in every way”!  For many – myself included – Julie Andrews is the visual representation of Mary Poppins but fair warning, this may change after you see Rachel work her magic!  I thought she embodied the physicality and spirit of the character so effortlessly and convincingly.

Just like the Banks’ children who soon become enamored by Mary Poppins’ unconventional but effective nanny style, you can’t help but get spellbound by Rachel’s performance.  She commands your attention with ease and has the audience eating out of the palm of her hand in no time.

The rest of the cast were absolutely stellar too, from the supporting characters to the ensemble.  I thought Simon Burke was great as George Banks, brilliantly depicting the exasperating yet almost comical stuffiness and inflexibility that the character is known for.  Precision and Order, one of the new numbers shines a spotlight on this idiosyncrasy and is a great addition to the song list.

I was also really impressed by the two children that played Jane and Michael.  It’s incredibly inspiring to see such young talent involved in such a major production and giving the adult performers a run for their money!  I especially enjoyed the comedy (with a little hint of mischief!) that the actor who played Michael that evening put in to the character.

Aside from Mary Poppins, the character that I enjoyed the most and who shone the brightest in my opinion was Mary Poppins’ cheery sidekick, Bert.  Matt Lee is simply outstanding as the multi-talented sometimes chalk artist, sometimes chimney sweep.  From opening the show with the recurrent Chim Chim Cher-ee, to being Mary’s trusty best friend and fun companion to the kids, to an astounding gravity-defying stunt, Matt does it all.  He plays Bert with such conviction and his stage presence is second to none; the charisma and energy he brought to his performance was just so enjoyable and captivating to watch.

I thoroughly enjoyed the performances of all the musical numbers.  Every song was beautifully sung and excellently choreographed – a vocal and visual spectacle.  One of the standout numbers for me was Step In Time which featured Bert and his fellow chimney sweeps in an enthusiastic and energetic tap dance routine – it was exciting, dynamic and just so much fun to watch!  Out of all the songs, perhaps the most known and loved one is the catchy mouthful Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.  It certainly would have been the most anticipated number and boy was it a goodie – I especially liked the addition of the hand gestures to mimic the letters.

The thing that had the biggest “wow factor” for me which completely blew me away was that stunning and amazing set.  Pretty much every prop and backdrop is movable and can be interacted with which made each set or scene change become more than just a necessity to indicate a change in location or progression in the narrative; for me it was something I started to look forward to seeing happen.

Every time the scene changed or the set moved, it happened so seamlessly and sometimes with a surprise or two that makes you scratch your head and wonder, “how did they do that?”.  It reminded me a lot of those old school “pop up books”.  The scene where the children are introduced to Mary Poppins’ magical bottomless carpet bag is one of my favorites from the film and how it was translated to the stage was just so remarkable to watch; it really was one of those “you have to see it to believe it” moments.

I do feel like my words will not be able to give full justice to just how exhilarating and truly spectacular this production it is.  I also don’t want to give too much away as a big part of the magic is seeing it unfold for yourself!  All I will leave you with is it is a must-see that is well worth the money and the trip – this renown children’s tale turned stage musical is simply flawless and an absolute theatrical triumph.

So don’t miss out – have a generous spoonful of sugar and let Mary Poppins take you and your imagination on a magical, extraordinary adventure.  Your eyes, ears and inner child will thank you for it.

The Whimsical Banana rates Mary Poppins: 6/5 bananas!

Beautifully crafted, exceptionally staged and superbly performed – a massive well done to the cast and creative team!

Mary Poppins is playing at the magnificent Civic Theatre in Auckland for a strictly limited season.  For more information, dates and to buy tickets, click here.  You can also learn more about the cast and crew, and catch snippets of the music by visiting the official Mary Poppins website.

Jason Mraz: You Are Loved, November 15th 2011

He sings with so much heart and soul, he scats effortlessly, he plays the guitar like a boss (especially considering he is self-taught!), he writes his own songs, he raps like a pro and even sings opera – is there anything Jason Mraz can’t do?

About 3 weeks ago, I attended his concert – or more appropriately called, his “acoustic evening” – at the Civic and that was easily the BEST thing I did all year.

I have been a fan for a long time (from the beginning), and I had been hoping and waiting for YEARS for him to come this way for a gig.  I was beyond ecstatic when I found out he was coming; I purchased my tickets TWO MONTHS prior on day one of the fan pre-sale – which resulted in (I thought) the best seats in the house 🙂  Not only was I mere feet away from the stage but I was clever and lucky enough to have picked seats that were right smack bang in front of the mic!

I have watched some of his performances online but nothing could honestly prepare me for what I was about to experience on the night.  He is already ‘aMRAZing’ as a recording artist but he is absolutely phenomenal live.  Completely different energy and his voice almost takes on a whole different persona.  One of his trademarks is that he is very improvisational with his performance; he has said many a time in interviews that he rarely performs the same song the same way more than once.  And this is so true.  Even though many of the songs were tracks I had heard a million times, it was like I was listening to them for the first time.

From start to finish, I was completely mesmerized.  What made the experience that much better was how he engaged with the crowd – he is very charming in real life!  He had some really funny stories to tell but also heartfelt words of inspiration to share.  I also loved all the audience participation bits – quite an integral part to the overall evening.  He has said in an interview that when he performs live it’s not about people coming to stare at him for 2 hours but it’s about everyone coming together to enjoy the music and participating in the experience.  To me, that speaks a lot about him as an artist and really just makes me love and respect him even more!  I think it is this perspective that he has that explains why he also incorporates other singer’s songs in his performance which I think is so refreshing.

I definitely, totally fell in love with him even more after watching him live ❤  The only thing I wished was that he wasn’t sporting the long hair and was wearing his trademark fedora!  He’s still incredibly cute though, and just such a down-to-earth and genuine person.

I have been listening to his music non-stop since then and watching countless videos of his other live performances all over the world and I just cannot get enough of him!!  He truly has a remarkable gift – he has such a beautiful character and tone to his voice and I think what’s even more appealing than that is just the way his songs tell a story.  He is such a fantastic lyricist; the way he expresses himself through song is a breath of fresh air – he is so clever and sometimes whimsical with his words.  His songs are all full of meaning, heart and soul and even though he is singing to a crowd of hundreds or thousands he has this uncanny, amazing ability to perform as if he was singing to only you.  And I have to say he has some crazy breathing skills; how he gets out so many words in one breath (and so succintly too!) is beyond me.

I must also mention the extremely talented Toca Rivera, Jason’s percussionist/right-hand-man who is a star in his own right, in my opinion.  His vocals perfectly complement Jason’s and don’t get me started on how he works his magic with all the percussion instruments he has at his disposal!  During the few times I wasn’t so busy staring at Jason, I was completely sucked in to Toca in action.

I didn’t record any videos myself because I just wanted to fully enjoy the evening without getting distracted, but thanks to Youtube there are quite a number out there and I’m going to share some of them here – because I don’t think my words can really justify how amazing he is!  There were, of course, SO MANY to choose from – I knew I couldn’t put them all here so I’ve picked the better quality ones and (hopefully) a good mix of tunes.  If these whet your Mraz appetite then go check out the other performances on Youtube, they’re not difficult to find.

In this one he talks about why he says “water” the way he does, hehe – he’s so adorable ❤

*Thanks to sienetta for the video

When this happened, I pretty much died of jealousy right there and then – no doubt every girl in the crowd was completely jealous of Esther!  Even now after the fact, every time I watch this video I get so sick to my stomach with jealousy!  I hope I am fortunate enough to get to sing a duet with him one day…a girl can hope!

*Thanks to j9broom for the video

This song leaves me so gobsmacked each time.  His range is mind-blowing – not only can he go really low but to be able to go operatic as he does here is just incredible. I also love the words behind the song too – one of my faves, in terms of the lyrics.

(Whoever keeps laughing in the background is really irritating though!)

*Thanks to sienetta for the video

Some of you may have heard this song on the radio – apart from his “hit singles” this would be another familiar song to the non-Mraz-fan ear because he won a Grammy for this song a couple of years back.  I think it has a very interesting beat to it, always makes me feel happy when I listen to it!

*Thanks to TheFletcherStewart for the video

This is one of my fave up-tempo tracks from him – I can’t get over how dirty the song is though, LOL.  I love the scatting he does in this performance, and the guitar lick at the beginning is freaking wicked!!

*Thanks to GriefHammer for the video

A new track which I hope will make it onto his next album!!  I love the guitar riff in this track and the harmonies between him and Toca are beautiful!  The lyrics are really interesting too if you listen closely.

*Thanks to sienetta for the video

And finally, I will leave you with the song he is best known for, with a little bit extra at the end!

*Thanks to kangta164 for the video

Thank you, Jason Mraz, for coming to New Zealand.  You changed my life that night – something you said near the end really spoke to me and changed my entire perspective on life.  So thank you!!  I can only hope I will be fortunate enough to watch you perform live again.

YOU ARE LOVED, JASON ❤