Review By Jerome Studdy “I just finished watching a magic show at the Opera House”; more people need to be able to say they have done this, especially when the show in question is James Galea’s Best Trick Ever. Wednesday night saw Galea and four guest magicians take to the stage in front of a pandemic era “full house”. The show was charming, baffling, entertaining, mind-bending, heart-warming, and incredibly clever. It was a bizarre experience to know that you were being duped, to know that there was swift sleight of hand at play, but still having no idea how it all worked.
Walking along the foreshore of Circular Quay to The Sydney Opera House is magic in its own right. Add to that, the moody dark red interior of The Studio, theatrical haze, a stage set in a New York style apartment balanced between vintage chic and modern sensibility, a grand piano, and the hallmarks of the magic profession (rabbits, hats, cards etc.) and you’ve really set up a bubbling and exciting atmosphere for a show. And this one delivers.
James Galea (host, musician, and card trick magician) opens the show as he welcomes the audience and four guest magicians into his “apartment”. The show then chugs along nicely as each magician shows off their ‘best tricks ever’. A simple concept for a show, but effective in providing impetus without impinging on the tricks themselves. Galea is engaging and provides some snappy sleight of hand card tricks that had the audience astounded. A few jokes didn’t land, some pacing and delivery wasn’t perfect, and it did take a little while for the audience to settle in, but overall Galea was a great host for the evening.
The first guest magician to treat the audience to some impressive trickery was Unusualist - Raymond Crowe. With a jovial mixture of clowning and unusual prop-based magicomedy, Crowe danced a tango with a levitating blazer, scaled heights in a giant slinky, and later in the show provided a most heart-warming shadow puppet routine. Crowe knows his craft intimately and it shows. The audience were captivated and content to allow Crowe to carry them along through his routine.
Following Crowe was Magician - Dom Chambers, bringing the “party boy” character to the apartment gathering. Chambers pulled endless beers out of empty paper bags, blended and juiced (and restored) an iPhone, turned Monopoly money into real cash, and even had time to drink a “shoey” on stage. Chambers was exciting to watch, and engaged well with the audience, but some moments felt undeniably scripted and contrived which left the audience feeling a little cheated. Ultimately though, Chambers was a striking presence on stage and deserves praise as an incredible magician.
Third to the stage was Escapologist Helen Coghlan. Coghlan possesses a gravitas that comes from an intimate understanding of the magic world, and the claim to the throne of first female escapologist. She is comedic, enthralling, and I wish I knew how she escaped that steel, padlocked crate in less than 30 seconds. Magic, one presumes.
Galea’s final guest is Cuber Vincent Kuo. Charming, suave, aloof, and superhuman in his dexterity and sleight of hand capabilities, Kuo was the perfect final addition to the show. Every trick elicited audible gasps, and there was even room for some dry humour to win the biggest laughs of the evening. An outstanding performance for Kuo’s Opera House debut.
This show is wonderful and an incredibly enjoyable evening. Date night, family night, solo night, weeknight, girls’ night, it doesn’t matter what the night is, you should start it at this show. Commendation must also go to the Sydney Opera House team who have created an environment that feels comfortable and safe in the current pandemic climate.
And how do they do it? I have my hunches, but a magician never tells.
Photo Credit: Prudence Upton