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Topic: "Phantom of the Opera" Magic
Message: Posted by: mws7020 (Jan 6, 2010 03:59PM)
I'm the Technical Director for a production of "Phantom of the Opera." I met with the director today to discuss the show. She asked me if I could make possible a few "magical effects" in the show. I thought there is no better place to run these past than you guys on the Café. The first one she wants is for one of the characters to snap their fingers, and have a quick and small burst of fire come out of the snap. I thought about maybe having him conceal a piece of flash paper, and some how secretly ignite it in the snap. Any ideas on how to accomplish this? Lastly, at the end of the show the Phantom is alone on the stage with a chair beside him. She wants to have a one to two second blackout and have the Phantom "disappear" and just have a mask and a rose on the chair. I thought about maybe building some sort of BA for the chair and have him hide behind it. I'm also the Light Designer so I can light it in a way you won't see the BA. Any better suggestions?

Thank you!
Matt
Message: Posted by: Frank Simpson (Jan 6, 2010 04:22PM)
First of all. I would avoid like the plague the vanish with mask and rose at the end. It just screams "We're copying the Andrew Lloyd Webber version!" Why invite the comparison?

Very often directors, particularly those who are not well-accustomed to working with live effects, have strange preconceptions as to the effects they want. Phrases like "with a snap of the fingers" and "flash of fire" or "puff of smoke" are such a part of the collective consciousness that people gravitate toward them without much thought. I might suggest that the script for your particular production be looked at by someone who is versed in magic performance to see if there are better or more appropriate "magic moments". And effects that can be more easily accomplished by known and tested means, particularly if they are to be performed by actors with limited magic skills.

My first question to your director would be (if it is not obvious from the script) what is the [i]purpose[/i] of a flash of fire accompanying the snapping of fingers? Could a different effect be substituted? Would a different point in the script be better suited for a different effect? So often the people asking for magic are not well-equipped to do so, and they just ask for what they are aware of through their limited understanding. They need guidance from people who know magic.

Of course, most effects that might be requested are possible, but are they a) safe, b) practical, c) reliable d) effective?

Actors who are not adequately trained with concealed pyrotechnic devices in their hands are prone to giving the method away, not to mention they may hurt themselves or others. Also, do your local fire authorities allow open flame on stage? Most do not, or if they do it is with very tight restrictions. Then there are the moments leading up to the effect and the moments immediately after. Does the script allow for getting a device ready, and subsequently ditching it if necessary?

When adding magic to a theatrical production the worst thing to do is just throw a few tricks on top of it without sufficient regard for the story, plot, and characters. The best thing to so is to find the moments in the script where the magic enhances the storytelling. Otherwise it just becomes a "gee-whiz" distraction.

Just my 2 cents worth... Good luck to you!
Message: Posted by: Michael Baker (Jan 6, 2010 04:26PM)
Without a stage trap, the BA is probably your best bet for a simple and fast vanish. Not sure what other stage furniture or scenery may be in the scene, but something nearby may offer a better alternative to the chair.

For the flash, you probably want a fingertip flashpot. The actors can learn to use these, and of course the pseudo-finger snapping would actually be the small motion necessary to ignite it. Theater Effects can probably supply the gimmicks. If not, a Google search may turn up something. I use them in my own show, although I made my own. I would suggest using flash cotton instead of flash paper. You'll get a more sure-fire ignition, and a faster flash. This will aid in both safety and reliability.

If you run into any problems with any of that, send me a PM.

~michael

~michael
Message: Posted by: MagicWGH (Jan 6, 2010 04:43PM)
Sparkle additive from Theater Effects would create sparkle. But note: That stuff burns extremely hot. It could damage the stage (depending what the surface is) or give an actor a nasty burn. With that aside, it crackles and sparks and looks really cool.
Message: Posted by: magicians (Jan 6, 2010 09:28PM)
Nothing you ask is difficult, and any local magic shop can supply you with the effects you need and/or a book to help you.
Theater magic is a different animal than a magic show. You have lighting, background, and props that most magicians couldn't stage on a traveling show.
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A flash will not distract. Plus the original mirror effect phantom production does set the theme. Even Weber considers the Phantom to be artist, musician and magician.
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When did the Phantom become available to local productions?
Message: Posted by: Frank Simpson (Jan 6, 2010 10:29PM)
Gaston Leroux's story of [i]The Phantom of the Opera[/i] is in public domain. Andrew Lloyd Webber's version of [i]The Phantom of the Opera[/i] is NOT available for amateur or stock production.
Message: Posted by: Oliver Ross (Jan 7, 2010 02:25AM)
And there it is Frank. I think that the original writing of Gaston Leroux should be read to find out how the story went originally.

Maybe there're some places in the book story where some magic happens, which could be used as a basic idea for the stage production. The advantage of books are that they get you to use and develop much more your fantasy and imagination aswell as your emotional feelings.

It's not easy at all to put magic in a stage production and Frank has said this already and given the reasons.
It's not impossible, but time consuming !

An other idea, but I think it'll be a little too late, would be to take the time and to study how magic is and was used effectively in broadway show, like i.e. Jim Steinmeyer did it for Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins...

Matt, how much time do you have to put the show together ?

Oliver.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Jan 7, 2010 10:52AM)
Several good points here. Now, just to add my two cents to Frank's two cents...

For the Phantom to do what we call "magic" during his interaction with other characters in the story could be either totally in character for him or totally out of character. If he comes across like he's using theatrical effects to make things happen, it could work very well. In the Leroux story, there are trap doors, sliding panels, and other stuff you could find in a theater, and they are referred to as things that the Phantom would know about and have access to. On the other hand, having the Phantom snap his fingers and produce a flash, and trying to make it look like "magic," could very well look like he went to the local magic shop and bought a trick -- or, even worse, it could look like the ACTOR went to the shop and bought the trick.

If it were me doing the set design, I'd read the Leroux story again, look up period theatrical effects, and adapt something. A good book for this is "Magic: Stage Illusions, Special Effects and Trick Photography" by Albert A. Hopkins, which is a Dover reprint. There's a lot of period theatrical charm in that book which has been totally lost since it was published.

Hope that helps.
Message: Posted by: mws7020 (Jan 7, 2010 11:53AM)
I'm the Technical Director and the Light Designer but I'm not the Set Designer or the builder. Frank, I fully agree with everything you said but I'm just trying to do what the director asked for. I probably will suggest that she changes the end for the exact reason you mentioned...I hope she listens, but I don't know if she will. Michael, thank you for your advice, it was extremely helpful. Oliver, I met with the director yesterday to discuss what she needs and tech week starts in three weeks. George, I also agree with what you said. However, since I'm not the director, I can't really have the final word in what happens. I will give her all your guy's suggestions thought and hope she listens.

Thanks everybody so much!
Matt
Message: Posted by: Oliver Ross (Jan 7, 2010 12:58PM)
George I think you've hit the nail. Old period theatrical effects adapted on recent illusion technics with the correct misdirection and lighting in the play could bring some "magic" in the show.

The phantom uses a pivoting panel to escape a pursuit. If you can clearly see underneath, the sides, above and behind and the phantom is gone with the panel still turning...The audience could ask themself : What the heck...where's he ?

Don't forget to use the theater part where the audience is sitting.

Just two ideas that come to my mind and a lot more.

Good luck and keep us informed how things are going on.

Oliver.
Message: Posted by: sethman (Jan 7, 2010 06:11PM)
Just curious, what kind of who is putting on the production?
Message: Posted by: mws7020 (Jan 8, 2010 09:11AM)
Sethman, its a local theatre group.
Message: Posted by: mattmccoy (Jan 9, 2010 02:58PM)
As long as people are willing to help ask all day.....all they can do is say no. Best of luck with you production!!

-Matt
Message: Posted by: Laszlo Csizmadi (Jan 9, 2010 03:26PM)
[quote]
On 2010-01-06 16:59, mws7020 wrote:
I'm the Technical Director for a production of "Phantom of the Opera." I met with the director today to discuss the show. She asked me if I could make possible a few "magical effects" in the show. I thought there is no better place to run these past than you guys on the Café. The first one she wants is for one of the characters to snap their fingers, and have a quick and small burst of fire come out of the snap. I thought about maybe having him conceal a piece of flash paper, and some how secretly ignite it in the snap. Any ideas on how to accomplish this? Lastly, at the end of the show the Phantom is alone on the stage with a chair beside him. She wants to have a one to two second blackout and have the Phantom "disappear" and just have a mask and a rose on the chair. I thought about maybe building some sort of BA for the chair and have him hide behind it. I'm also the Light Designer so I can light it in a way you won't see the BA. Any better suggestions?

Thank you!
Matt
[/quote]
Matt,

For your first question here is the answer:

http://www.mindseyemagic.com/fingerflash.php

The second question. You could blind the audience for 2 seconds with strogh lights.

I hope this help you.

Best,

Las
Message: Posted by: mws7020 (Jan 9, 2010 05:30PM)
Thanks guys for all the help! Las, do you have any experience with finger flash? It seems very cool, but I'm a bit skeptical to have an actor use it.
Message: Posted by: mattmccoy (Jan 10, 2010 10:25AM)
Used the same prop for a production of Wizard of Oz. Small dose of flash cotton and sprakle additive gives the effect you want and an actor should do it no problem. Our witch did it with nails and all.

-M.