Review: Theater Close-up by Greg Gleason

Published on Thursday, June 01, 2006 in , , ,

Theater Close-Up AdWhen I first saw the ad for Greg Gleason's Theater Close-up, many of the effect descriptions peaked my interest, so I picked them up as soon as possible.

The DVDs themselves are professionally produced, with a crisp, clear picture. Those of you used to the high picture quality videos from Bob Kohler magic (please note that Theater Close-up is NOT a Bob Kohler release), will see similar high quality here.

Every effect (or technique, in some cases) begins with Greg detailing the important points of the effect, as well as the proper credits for the inspiration. As Greg Gleason is a cruise ship performer, almost all the performance segments are shot in front of a real-world audience on a cruise ship (some are performed in the cruise ship cabin for fellow performers, but not many of them). As this is close-up for large theater, you also see a video screen behind Greg, as shot from above. I always appreciate seeing material in front of real-world audiences, especially after so many videos that feature the same audience members so frequently that we can all refer to them by name. The explanations that follow are then shot in a cruise ship cabin. This contrast really helps give the explanations a stronger "behind the scenes" feel than most other DVDs.

What about the effects and techniques themselves?

The Devil Went Down To Vegas is a great Gambler vs. Magician plot, using slightly re-written lyrics for the Charlie Daniels' classic song. The best thing about this effect as an opener is that the song gives it an element of familiarity that helps establish rapport right away.

The G-Card is Greg's approach to Martin Nash's Infinity work. There's a different psychology and approach to the work here than Infinity, however. Three routines are then performed and taught that use the G-Card idea - Quicker Than the Eye, Lost and Found, and I Found It. These effects show off the strengths of the G-Card technique well, and would be difficult if not impossible to do without them.

Next up is Moneymorphosis, a close-up Metamorphosis effect with two signed 20 dollar bills. This effect requires some special props (yes, still available), but plays very strong, and allows a brief break from the card magic.

The last two tricks on Vol. I are my among my favorites from this series.

Greg shows how to start with a shuffled deck, perform a single routine (no deck switches!), and end with the deck prepared for J.C. Wagner's classic Super Closer routine. The routine taught here is classic, but Greg has modified the handling so as to both allow the set-up and make the original routine better suited to going just before a closing effect. I expect that this will be the most-used items from the DVD.

Sleight of Butt is a stage routine with a regular deck that doesn't require video screens. It's a fun cards across routine in which cards go, well, from butt to butt.

Moving on to Vol. II, we have the Hot Shot Opener. This is a routine that employs the Magician In Trouble scenario as a quick effect. An added bonus is that those who have trouble with Daryl's Hot Shot Cut can still be able to do this with the help of Greg's approach.

I have to admit, I've never been a big fan of Matrix effects, so Matrix Explosion didn't really grab me in the same way as many others. If you're willing to put in some work (even Greg mentions that you won't be doing this routine without plenty of practice) and engage in some preparation, you'll have a nice Matrix routine with a multiple coin finish.

Next up is the OSC ("Overhand Shift Control"), which is a technique for controlling multiple cards to the top that appears very fair. Banned from Vegas is a Triumph-style routine in which the four aces wind up face-up in the center of a face-down deck. If you've ever seen Ricky Jay's version of this routine (which inspired Banned From Vegas), and wanted to do it, you'll be glad to know that no Faro shuffles are used here.

The OSC Full Deck Control combines the OSC with the G-Card idea to allow you to control the entire deck. Although Greg never specifically discusses it, you could force the bottom four cards of a memorized deck and then lose them and find with this technique. Afterwards, you simply place them on the bottom in the right order, and you'll still be able to do any memorized deck routines. After all the apparent shuffling, you also have the advantage that the audience must believe you're working with a shuffled deck, which is a very nice psychological advantage.

Invisible Card is a shuffled-deck version of the Invisible Deck. To me, the classic version is hard to beat. The fact that there is work to be done after the card is named reduces the attractiveness of this version as an alternative to the original. However, the work is relatively simple and appears fair.

Lock Up is the first of two closers on this volume. A Master Lock dial is placed on the face of a deck of cards, and the card immediately underneath the lock dial changes to the selected card. As a surprise finish, the dial is used to "lock" the cards, so they become one single brick. I've seen plenty of solid deck style routines, and I like the whimsical logic as to why the deck becomes solid here.

Finally, Signed Card to Sealed Deck, which is precisely what the name implies, has some very nice thinking behind it. As with some of the other effects, there is some presentation and special props required, but the resulting effect is well worth it. In what is a rarity for this type of effect, the selected signed card not only ends up in a sealed deck of opposite color, but ends up in precisely the location where it should be (in the routine, the selected, signed card is the 10C, which winds up in the sealed deck between the 9C and the JC). Greg's detailed explanation of how to prepare and perform this routine makes this trick seem much more approachable.

Overall, while I can see some complaining about the routines that requires special props or "too much" set-up, there are plenty of routines here that can be worked from a shuffled deck without preparation. Remember that this is a video put together by a professional performer, and his focus is to do what works and what entertains real-world audiences. Every routine is given proper crediting, and important details are mentioned repeatedly and clearly.

I highly recommend these DVDs!

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