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But let us return to the email and questions we receive of a magical nature.
What did you think of the new Elvis movie?
J. Lammost, Mitchell, South Dakota
This not really a magic-related question but we can answer. We thought it was spectacular and will likely see it again. When it comes to showmanship, we can think of no one better than the King. There were some magical take aways. Elvis would end his show with an encore but make it appear that it was unexpected. He would converse with his band and orchestra to do something special for the crowd. We know from our study of Elvis history that he did this in every show. He would make the encore appear to be a special, unprepared presentation offered because of the unique situation he was in. He would mention that they would put something together just because the crowd was demanding it.
Las Vegas entertainers par excellence, Wayne Newton and Sammy Davis, Jr. did the same presentation. They would ask their band leader if they could do something special for the crowd, allegedly arrange the special presentation on the fly. The audience each night felt special.
In magic, unfortunately, performers in our art are rarely urged by audiences to perform just one more trick. We’re not sure why this is. Are we not cueing our audience to ask for the additional performance, do our audiences not know that they can make such a demand? Are our acts so lackluster that no audience would request more?
The last reason is not likely true in the case of working professionals. Their acts are tight and so well coordinated that they are deserving of an encore. We watched a couple true pros perform at the Magic Castle before Covid and the audience would not let them leave the stage. There were requests that they perform just one more.
In one case, InsideMagic.com’s Favorite, Whit Haydn, acted surprised and paused to consider what he had left to perform. The impression was that he had not prepared any additional trick. And suddenly he thought of something that he could perform for the audience and just this audience. It was one of the best (and logical) performances of Ring Flight we have ever seen. If you have performed Ring Flight, you know it is something you need to prepare before you walk out on stage. It couldn’t have been truly impromptu but it was performed for the audience because they had asked and Pop – as he is now called – felt obligated to perform just one more.
We were in the front row and could not stop smiling. He performed it so well and made it look so spontaneous and unplanned. Once the audience began filing for the doors, they could not help but talk about the last trick. They accepted that he wasn’t prepared to do anything additional and so that ruled out any advance set-up. They were fooled and felt special that they had asked for “just one last trick” and their request was granted by the very accommodating performer.
It was magic.
We’re not sure what subtle clues Whit / Pop offered to encourage the audience to demand an additional trick but they did. Perhaps there was no NLP or hints given and the audience did not want to leave at the end of his show without more.
It does seem, though, that when we have been asked to perform one more effect – even at The Castle – it comes from connecting with the audience through deference, kindness and the establishment of a bond. We are all in this together – performer and audience. We are all enjoying the magic and the interaction between us. As new friends, the audience can ask for one more trick because that is what friends do when they are entertained.
The late and very missed, Brian Gillis was another genius at having his audience demand something special in his apparently impromptu encore. For the magicians who had seen his performance on many occasions, we knew that the encore was planned well in advance but that didn’t take away our excitement to watch the master perform “just one more.”
We thought maybe this was manipulation for self-gratification on the part of the performer but are now convinced it is not. It is truly responding to audience demand from an audience who feels comfortable enough to ask for more from someone who has entertained them so well.
This post strays far from the question but we think that’s okay. Anytime you can connect Pop Haydn, Brian Gillis and Elvis, you have accomplished something mighty.
Thank you for the question!