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Center Stage (2 DVD Set) Review

Official Review

June 23rd, 2015 1:38am
Reviewed by James Sanden
Filmed at The Session Convention, “Center Stage” is John Guastaferro’s most recent release. This two DVD set includes a variety of card magic, a ring and straw routine, as well as a novel way to introduce a close up set. A number of the routines have already been in print, though several have been updated, and a few are being seen on video for the first time.

The majority of the content is card magic, though it’s not just limited to close up, as a number of the effects will play well onstage. Mr. Guastaferro has a reputation for creating clever, elegant and efficient magic, and this collection is no different. His talent lies in combining sleight of hand and subtlety to create something greater than the sum of its parts. By and large the methods are simple as well, though not in a pejorative sense. He pares the method down to its necessary components, combining elements when he can, always focusing on the end effect. One of the major themes expressed is the idea of “one degree,” a concept he wrote a book on earlier in his career. A “one degree” change to a routine is a small improvement with a huge impact. It’s a subtle refinement that can alter an entire effect. He goes on to illustrate this idea with examples drawn from many of the routines taught on the set.

The routines taught cover a broad spectrum. Highlights include a version of Homing Card done with four aces instead of the deck, an ace assembly that would play well onstage and a multiple selection routine where the performer reads each of the spectator’s minds before magically producing their cards. Other interesting ideas include an efficient version of the classic Biddle Trick, opening a close up set by producing all the props you’ll use, a couple of unexpected and interesting four ace routines and an amazing signed card routine wherein the selection magically disappears from and appears in a transparent luggage tag. Not every routine was a home run, but even those that weren’t included ideas worth exploring.

For a project filmed at a magic convention lecture, the camera work was sufficient. Multiple camera angles were used, and everything that needed to be seen was visible. At times the instruction was a little fast paced, but everything one would need to know was covered.

The DVD also includes an interview with Mr. Guastaferro that seemed at times a bit more like a profile than a discussion of how to perform effective magic. Still, a number of great concepts were introduced, including involving the spectator, getting one’s magic to play bigger, and adding a kicker to routines to exceed expectations. My interest was particularly piqued when Mr. Guastaferro started drawing parallels between his career in marketing and magic. He discussed the concept of a personal brand, developing an awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses, and how his goal in life is to create extraordinary moments for people, both in AND out of magic; all very thought provoking stuff. He ends with some thoughts on where to find inspiration that would be practical and useful to any performer.

If you’re a fan of John Guastaferro, you’ll like this DVD set, although you may already have some of the content in other formats. If you’re not familiar with his work, this is a great introduction and this set is filled with practical, amazing and clever magic. Some of the routines seemed overly complex, with phases that, while amazing, muddied the overall effect a bit. Still, overall it was a good combination of solid magic and useful, applicable theory. If you like powerful, clever, accessible magic, you’ll very much enjoy “Center Stage.”

Available at your favorite Murphy’s Magic dealer

Product info for Center Stage (2 DVD Set)

Author: Guastaferro, John
Publisher: Vanishing Inc.
Average Rating:  (2)
Retail Price: $39.95
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Manufacturer's Description:

John Guastaferro has emerged as one of magic's most elegant performers, as well as one of the art's most versatile creators. Both the elegance and versatility are on full display on Center Stage, John's first DVD collection in many years. Whether you are a longtime fan of John Guastaferro or whether this is your introduction to his work, Center Stage is the definitive way to study John's unique approach. This is a collection of fourteen routines and moves, but there are also fourteen lessons embedded in each effect if you watch very carefully. Many of these routines are captured on video for the first time, and others contain important updates from the originally-published handlings.

In particular, the emphasis in this collection-which is filmed live at The Session in the UK-is on close-up and parlor card magic. In addition, we have included an intimate interview with John covering all aspects of his intelligent, relatable approach to creating strong magic. If you want to take your magic to the next level, and add layers of polish, mystery, and meaning, jump into Center Stage.

Lost and Found
This is John's signature routine where a signed card vanishes from a clear sleeve, then reappears inside. Learn all the one-degree improvements that make this effect more powerful than ever.

Gemini Squared
Four business cards placed in the deck by your participants end up predicting the outcome ... followed by an ending that no one sees coming. This new version of John's "Gemini Prediction" is now nearly self-working.

Ballet Cut
The Ballet Cut is a graceful flourish and in-the-hands false cut that is sure to become a standard move in your work. Learn the finer points plus visual card revelation featuring the Ballet Cut.

Zen Bend & Ring on Straw
This impromptu bending straw is easy, fun and visual. Continue the routine by making a ring appear and penetrate the straw.

Assembly Line
This four-card assembly engages four people as the Jacks make their way into one person's hands. It's perfect for both close up and stage.

In this unique approach to the multiple revelation effect, the magician reads the minds of seven people-then produces each of the cards in a different way. The routine has caught the eye of magicians worldwide.

Invisible Opener
Imagination becomes reality as invisible items appear from nowhere, including poker chips, cards and rubber bands. The perfect way to introduce all your props.

A card with a compass drawn on it helps find the spectator's card, then ends up being the signed card.

Using one devious move derived from John Bannon's Bullet Catcher, you cause a selection to jump from a packet of five cards to the deck. John's take on Elmer Biddle's classic Transcendent is sure to become a standard for every strolling performer.

Ace Case
The Aces travel to the box in different ways in one of the finest card-to-box themed routines around.

Four Aces appear one at a time in visually stunning ways. Also learn the technicolor version from One Degree.

Homage to Homing
This powerful card-to-pocket routine features three distinct and increasingly impossible phases.

Little White Lies
Predict which of the four Queens your participant will turn over, then show that the trick never happened. Learn the fooling principle behind it, plus how to make John's Picture Perfect Wallet.

Flip Side
A selected card vanishes and reappears upside down at a number named by the spectator.

Running time: approximately 2 hours.
Also included: a 20 minute interview with John Guastaferro

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