RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL
A ROCKEFELLER GROUP COMPANY
This is the most difficult report Irene and I have ever written. Two superstars of magic appearing with their famous Bengal White Tigers, an elephant, a lion, tigers, panthers and even a duck and a snake in a fantasy of lighting, music, a brilliant cast with gorgeous costumes combine to make this the greatest magical extravaganza ever produced. I doubt that there will ever be a magic orientated show to surpass it.
Siegfried and Roy's World Tour represented one of most awesome international logistical triumphs ever achieved in the live entertainment world. Consider these examples of plans for the multi-million dollar expedition organized under the perfectionist eye of producer Kenneth Feld:
An entire new theater stage was constructed in Las Vegas, complete with all rigging. The stage was shipped in its entirety to be reassembled in a vast high-tech tented theater constructed especially for Siegfried & Roy in the heart of Tokyo's Ginza District.
Siegfried and Roy's famed collection of wild animals, an integral part of the show, accompanied their masters aboard an airborne "Noah's Ark," one of two charted 747's which transported almost a half-million pounds of cargo 5,500 miles from Las Vegas. (The elephant came by ship but later flew to New York aboard yet a third 747.)
Then there were living arrangement for the touring company of 85 performers and support staff for the eight month stay.
When the successful run in Tokyo ended it was decided to scrap the 3,000 seat tent theater and build a duplicate in Osaka at a cost of over a million dollars which would be more than saved by not having the show off during the time the tent was moved.
Irene and I joined S&R on May the 3rd at the beautiful Osaka Hilton Hotel. From our hotel room we had a nice view of the "White Theater" which is what the tent was called. This new tent was expanded to seat 3,600 people and it was hard to believe that when the Osaka run finished it would be scrapped as there was no other show big enough to fill it.
As you entered you found yourself in a large lobby with concession stands all around selling everything from hot dogs to toy white tigers at about $200 a crack. There was also a large white tiger in his own air conditioned showroom complete with a swimming pool. Tickets sold up to $80 per and beautiful full color programs went for $16.00.
Behind the main tent were two more air conditioned tents for the animals. Roy even had palm trees installed at a cost of $1,000 each so the animals would feel comfortable. The cages are shown at the right and the other tent housed the elephant, ducks, snakes, etc.
Irene was in heaven when she could help exercise some of the animals between shows.
"O.K.", I hear you readers saying! "We love the tent - your hotel - the animals.....now tell us about the show!"
I can't possibly convey the feeling of opulence - of grandeur - of the staging and everything else that you would have to be present to absorb. Siegfried and Roy's vast popularity stems from a unique combination of elements.
It is a mixture of compelling onstage charisma, a mastery of complex, large -scale illusion which combines blinding speed with split-second timing to create a heightened air of the unexpected, and the integration of some 15 exotic wild animals into their illusions.
What follows is the show we saw in Osaka. It is being put in print for the generations to come as the show in New York was a little different and the show opening next month at the Mirage will again be different.
The show was performed in ten spectacular scenes including two speciality acts.
As you walk into the theater you are very impressed that it is so large and beautifully decorated. And not a pole to be seen. Magic!
There was a special Royal Platform for honored guests and all the seats were contour fitted with backs.
Exactly at 8 p.m. fog began to come down from the dome and what I would call a giant gargoyle came down with red lasers coming out of the eyes. This was followed by one of the best light shows I have ever seen and then the show itself.
Scene one - "In the Beginning"
"Siegfried and Roy arrive on a strange planet only to encounter hostile forces. Unleashing their mystical powers, they overcome monumental obstacles."
The curtain opens on a fog filled set representing a planet with a stark rock wall. Two empty cylinders are lowered and fill with fog. They are lifted to reveal S&R. As they walk along the wall it suddenly comes to life with seven other world beings grabbing at S&R. They pull slowly into the wall until only S&R's arm and leg are seen. The instant their arm and leg go into the wall they appear on top of the wall. They are surrounded by space people and are both placed in boxes. The heads are shown and the legs but the bodies vanish only to be restored.
Giant butterflies appear and Lynette Chappell makes her first appearance. She covers herself and instantly vanishes. A tank of water is shown and Lynette slowly materializes in the water only to fade away again and come back again. This action is all part of an elaborate dance routine. The scene ends with a crystal box lowered from above the audience. Lynette is in the box. A cover is raised and immediately dropped to reveal a full grown rare white tiger.
Scene two - "Hocus Pocus"
"A band of magical troubadours present a kaleidoscope of extraordinary illusions."
This is a mile a minute romp in which Roy is the debonair person with long cigarette holder and Siegfried is the country boy. A carnival tent is set up by the tumblers, jugglers, and dancers in a mini parade. They whiz through a series of illusions, all with comedy added. There are enough illusions in this scene to fill the average full evening show. They do the stretching illusion - the squeezing illusion - an illusion where a girl is in a circular device. Head, body, and feet. The body turns but the head and feet don't. But there is more! There is a half girl in a swing and the bottom half comes out and joins the top. They do a fast sword impalement and end with a superb neck twisting illusion. They pack up the tent and troop off. S&R enjoy every minute of it as does the audience.
Before going to scene three I must comment on what a treasure Lynette Chappell is. In addition to being S&R's leading lady on Stage - she handles their social appointments and acts as a marvelous hostess. In addition she supervises the offices.
At this point the world famous Mummenschanz mime troupe does a bit with a giant oyster. It is not listed in the program as a scene. I would call it an interlude while the stage is changing. More about them in the second half of the show.
Scene three - "The Forbidden Temple"
"Reliefs become dramatic reality as the King enters on his mighty steed and death is defied."
Roy comes out riding a beautiful horse, Roy is the Aztec King and he puts the horse through a very impressive dance. The sets and costumes plus the superior choreography makes this another standout scene. A silk the size of the stage instantly vanishes. Roy floats with legs crossed around the stage. Roy is placed in a paper pyramid and amid fire-works it burns - Roy is gone - and in his place is a snake. Lynette takes the snake and gets in a basket. The basket is covered and she and the snake vanish. It is covered again and Roy is now in the basket. He comes out and from the same basket comes a leopard.
The scene finished with the double hanging illusion. S&R are covered with hoods and as they are hanged, Siegfried comes running from the back and Roy swings out over the |audience. Tarzan would have been proud.
Scene four - The King Charles Troupe
This is the hilarious, madcap black basketball group that has been with S&R in Las Vegas for some time. They have added some new gags. In case you haven't seen them, they do it all on a series of unicycles.
Scene five - "Still Life"
"The forces of gravity are suspended at the supernatural hands of Siegfried and Roy."
The first half closed with a combination of floating illusions. As the curtain opens the stage is filled with fog. Lynette comes out and is laid down on the floor. Uncovered she slowly rises out of the fog and into the air. A box is brought out and she is floated down into the box which just happens to be a thin sawing with a buzz saw blade. Having been sawed and restored she is covered and floats out of the box, high in the air. Siegfried pulls the cover away and she has vanished. This is one of the finest and most brilliant combinations of three illusions in magic and I hope I never see another magician try to copy it.
The first act is brought to a close by both Siegfried and Roy floating cross-legged and as they concentrate - out of the darkness - one by one - seven white tigers are revealed. Very beautiful!
INTERMISSION 25 MINUTES
Scene six - "The War Between The Worlds"
"The Living Bullet and the Flying Feline highlight Siegfried and Roy's own military extravaganza."
This scene is again elaborately produced and costumed in military costumes. It is the best cannon illusion I have ever seen or hope to see. A lepjag is loaded in the giant cannon. Then Roy puts on a helmet and also goes in the cannon. A cage on the opposite side of the stage is shown empty. A curtain is placed around the cage for an instant while the cannon is aimed and fired. The cover is taken immediately off the cage and Roy and the lepjag are seen tumbling into the cage. The cannon is, of course, empty.
Scene seven - The Fanfare of Masks
The MUMMENSCHANZ mime troupe returns with their feature act. Created in Switzerland by Andres Bossard, Floriana Frassetto and Bernie Schurch, Mummenschanz is credited with bringing a new form of expression to the theater. It features the performances of Peter Schilling and Beatric Jaccard. It is a very unusual ten minutes of the two young men dressed in mime black making all sorts of faces from what appears to be their own plastic faces. Truly a most unusual act. I must say it is not the kind of act you can enjoy over and over. Once is nice.
Scene eight - "Gems of Nature"
"Siegfried and Roy present their breathtaking Royal White Tigers, a gift from the gods."
This is my favorite scene from this exciting show. Here the Japanese really get to know S&R. Roy speaks to the audience in Japanese and it sounded good to me. He brings out one of the full grown white tigers and the audience loved it.
Then, in a country where land is scarce, how impressed they were to see the film of the "place" S&R have created in Las Vegas. So many great scenes with the animals.
Then the giant screen goes of and a White Rolls Royce pulls in with mama and the babies.
We now have the great routine from Las Vegas where Roy vanishes from a chair and is replaced with a duck. The duck is placed in a crystal case and changes back to Roy.
Working through an excellent translator the act had the Japanese laughing.
Next was their famous version of metamorphoses. After an instant change between Roy and Siegfried in the box, a cage is rolled over the box. It is briefly covered and when the cover is taken off we find Leo, the full grown lion. Where is Roy? The box is opened again and Roy comes out with a black panther.
A comedy bit with the snake that is missing from back stage and on then the Motorcycle transposition which is well known and S&R do it the best in my opinion.
A girl is brought out from the audience and Siegfried gets miles of laughs as they do the bit of a tiger appearing over her head and it is her job to touch the tigers tail for good luck. Too funny to describe!
Scene nine - "Bring 'em Back!"
"A 6,000 pound Elephant vanishes under the mystical powers of Siegfried and Roy. But can they make her reappear?"
It's a lot of work to bring a 6,000 pound elephant around the world, feed her - take care of her. But it was worth it! Again, just to say they vanished an elephant can't possible convey to you the stage effects and costumes that make this so spectacular. Roy comes out riding the elephant. Walls are raised and the beast is GONE! Now comes the big production number to the song "Bring 'em Back". The audience gets involved and it's almost a chant. A platform is shown which his high enough to see under and they do "BRING 'EM BACK!"
At this point the cast takes their well deserved bows. Then Siegfried asks - do you want some more? (Here's a line that several are copying) Of course they do.
Scene ten - "Encore"
"Siegfried and Roy and nature's most majestic creatures in a spellbinding ethereal experience."
Siegfried comes out and thanks the audience in Japanese. He quips: "You have probably never heard Japanese with a German accent". But he was very good and the audience loved it.
Then it was into their traditional closing with a white tiger pacing in a cage on a platform. The sides of the cabinet are raised and the cage is covered and hoisted into the air. The cage and tiger vanish. Hah! It's in the base! But no, the sides drop and Roy leaps up.
A white tiger is produced from a flaming mirror ball and jumps onto the ball. Roy leaps atop the tiger and directed by Siegfried it floats into the air for the most spectacular closing in magic's history. I hope they keep this in at the Mirage. It has become traditional.
The ending has the audience wild and they are all singing about loving the animals.
There is a long standing ovation followed by dozens of bouquets of flowers which happened every performance. Japan loved S&R.
So....we now know that the Japanese trip was a great success artistically and financially. What will they find in New York?
After another monumental air lift, this time involving four 747's plus commercial air, the show opened at Radio City November 23rd. It was an immediate smash success with full houses (6,000 seats) almost every show. All the papers gave it great reviews including the Weekly Variety (which is a hard nut to crack!)
Of the show "Meyr" wrote:
The Siegfried & Roy "Illusion" show, one sure winner in Las Vegas and a huge success in Japan, demonstrates its amazing power to entertain in its Gotham debut, reportedly its last road appearance.
With a cast of 55 humans - including the Mummenschanz mime company and the King Charles Troupe of unicyclists - and a startling array of animals, among them a lion and many spectacular white tigers, Siegfried and Roy pile illusion upon illusion for more than two hours.
The show is produced by Ringling Bros.. and Barnum & Bailey impresario Kenneth Feld and the feel of the circus is everywhere, from the kind of programs and souvenirs being hawked in the lobbies - up to at least $100 - to the nonstop effects and glitz onstage.
Pile on that sparkling costumes, dazzling lighting, lots of smoke, etc., etc., etc.
It is Siegfried (the blond) and Roy's show, and the illusions they create via splashy production numbers will dazzle the proverbial "Kids from 8 to 80" (and beyond) whether or not they're the type who stand up and cheer for Tinkerbell.
There is also a Liberace glaze to the proceedings, from pictures of the house in Las Vegas with the tigers prowling and swimming to S&R riding onstage with a white Rolls full of tigers in a kitch-as-kitch-can scene that stretches a bit long.
The Mummenschanz players are underutilized, though there's a too-long clay-face scene, and the bang-bang pace of Harlem's King Charles Troupe, with its set-piece basketball game, dazzles as always.
In the final analysis, however, it is the showmanship of Siegfried and Roy, lots of cats, beautiful women being 'power-sawed" and otherwise "dismembered", and illusion, illusion, illusion that the well satisfied audience takes home.
The New Yorker Magazine also gave the show a rave review which is most unusual and they don't tend to like magic that much!
How did the New York Production Differ from the Japanese version? Not by very much. Of course, all the Japanese language was deleted. Two illusions were added. The Origami illusion followed the film scene and their was a new addition of multiplying and dancing tiger tails just after the motorcycle illusion.
At the beginning of the Encore Siegfried told the story of how he and Roy landed in New York City as young men just off the ship. The first thing they did was to go to Radio City Music Hall and while they had a dream, they never really thought they would hold the record for the most successful show ever to play.
In his closing remarks, Siegfried reminds us to "Look for the magic that is all around you". Then he makes a point that all magicians should remember.
You, the audience are the most important for without you, there would be no show.
Another standing ovation and the New York trip was an outstanding success.
IN THE SPACE THAT REMAINS Irene and I would like to thank a few people. Siegfried and Roy's personal manager BERNIE YUMAN could not do enough for us. He was right on top of things both in Japan and New York and is a very talented man. Our congratulations to KENNETH FELD for continuing his father's work and for recognizing the talents of S&R and supporting them as they have supported him.
To our favorite ladies Lynette Chappell and dance captain Maureen Owen who in addition to her other duties, always has time to take care of magicians.
To Antonio "Tony" Mitchell who seems to be at all places at all times from dawn until the very late hours. He has never failed to find me a bourbon and these things are appreciated. He is a very talented man in many phases.
We loved spending some time with Eleanor St Germain who helped Milt and me run the Magic Castle in the early days. She now lives in NYC and is writing scripts.
Our thanks to Charles and Regena Reynolds for the nice party and also to Iman for being so nice to us at his "Mostly Magic" club at 55 Carmine St., NYC 10014. (212) 924-1472. Don't miss it if you come to New York City.
We were delighted that S&R took us twice to Chez Josephine for dinner. Roy is a great Josephine Baker fan and one of her adopted sons, Jean Claude Baker could not have been nicer to S&R's dinners. We understand S&R went back three times after we left. The food and music is great so do visit. It's at 414 West 42nd St. NY NY 10036, (212) 594-1925.
Well, the show closed as scheduled on October 15th and the new show will open at the new Mirage On Dec. 26th. Naturally, Genii will report it. Thanks....Bill & Irene.
GENII, The Conjurors'