Scrooge coverage in the USA
The US tour of the musical Scrooge starring Richard Chamberlain generated a lot of interest in Paul’s work. This extract is from “Scrooge brings star appeal and ghostly magic to PAC by Steven Hyden in The Post Crescent“, 14 November 2004.
The man responsible for much of this is Paul Kieve, a British illusionist who recently acted as magic consultant for the film “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” He designed magical illusions for the film, and taught stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson some tricks of the trade. Kieve is behind the sleight of hand that makes the seasonal supernatural activity in “Scrooge” seem plausible.
Speaking by phone from his home in London, Kieve expressed disappointment about not being able to catch the show in Appleton, only the third American city thus far to host “Scrooge.” Like many illusionists, Kieve is enamored with the adopted hometown of Harry Houdini. “I hope the spirit of Houdini will see the show,” he said.
For Kieve, who has been with “Scrooge” since its 1993 London premiere, the idea is to make the spirits seem both palpable and awe-inspiring for the audience.
“Our version of the show always has had a magic element in it,” Kieve said. “I think a lot of versions cop out. They bring out people in a puff of smoke.”
The trickery in this “Scrooge” is most dazzling whenever a spirit makes its appearance or disappearance on stage. Kieve singles out the Ghost of Christmas Past as having the most dramatic flair for entering and exiting. He hopes to leave the audience guessing as to how they did it.
“For special effects to be truly spectacular, it should be surprising and baffling,” Kieve said. “There’s a difference between a puff of smoke and what I do.”
From “Ghosts and magic: ‘Scrooge’ calls on illusionist “by Miriam Di Nunzio, Chicago Sun, October 31, 2004
Ghosts appear and disappear into thin air. Objects just fly about. Eerie things go bump in the night along London’s wintry streets.
This is the stuff of Charles Dickens’ classic novel A Christmas Carol, which was adapted and renamed “Scrooge” for the stage musical now playing through Nov. 7 at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts/Oriental Theatre.
Starring Richard Chamberlain in the title role, there is much that is magical about the show. And while Chamberlain and the rest of the cast operate within a world of ghosts and various other spirits, there is one man responsible for bringing it all to life nightly on stage.
Enter Paul Kieve, a British illusionist, whose specialty is physical magic. Kieve is no stranger to creating literary magic — he was the magic consultant for the film
‘Azkaban’ [Alfonso Cuaron] was very keen to include the idea of real magic happening live in front of the camera in addition to computerized effects,” Kieve
said. “This adds an enormous amount of layers to a scene, so that there are things going on in the background, foreground and everywhere in between. It
gives a scene much more depth.”
Among Kieve’s favorite creations for the film is the magical marauder’s map that folds itself up, which he created and operated on screen (though he is not visible,
of course). He also created all the floating spheres in the astrology room at Hogwarts.
For “Scrooge,” which Kieve has been a part of since its 1993 London premiere, creating magic on the stage posed one major problem.
“The only truly difficult thing about creating these kinds of illusions for a stage production is that it has to happen perfectly every night,” Kieve said. “I create things for live theater that in a film the special effects people might execute through editing. On film, you can do the most complicated thing — as long as it works once, and it’s captured on film once. In theater, you don’t have the luxury of a second take during a performance.”
Some of the show’s magical moments occur as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future make their entrances and exits. Other times, characters “disappear” through set pieces. Objects appear out of nowhere. “True to the Dickens novel, there is a great element of spookiness to the play,” Kieve said. “The ghosts appear out of thin air in quite unexpected ways, which simply astound Scrooge. And Scrooge has to be just as astounded as the audience, or it doesn’t play well. This is perhaps the greatest ghost story ever told, but it’s all a story of joy and happiness, so it’s not frightening.”
Kieve worked closely with the production’s set and costume designers to incorporate the illusions seamlessly into their grand plan. He also had to work with the technical crews so that the timing, critical to the success of any illusion, would become second nature.
“People may have seen great magicians like [David] Copperfield and their amazing shows, but there’s something else to seeing magic in the context of a story. It makes it somewhat more difficult to do because you can’t just suddenly see a ghost disappear. You have to make it happen using the set, the props, the story.”
Then Kieve had to teach the American cast of “Scrooge” how to do magic. “They’ve been fantastic,” Kieve said. “Richard [Chamberlain] has to literally become a magician at certain moments during the story, and he has to physically control the illusion, yet look like he’s not doing anything. He has this incredible sense of theater, so he got the whole performance element of doing magic very quickly. And the kids, they’ve been lots of fun. Of course, I don’t teach anyone every part of every illusion,” he adds, laughing. “A magician has to have his secrets.”
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