Doug Henning's Merlin

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Postby Guest » 07/22/07 05:29 PM

In 1983, I sat in the theater and watched as Doug Henning approached a cloaked young lady, and she suddenly vanished! She simply vanished. There were no boxes, no dances, no tubes. She just simply disappeared. I was well read enough to say to myself, in astonishment, "That was the Mascot Moth!" It hadn't been seen in years and, yet, there it was! I was breathless and, then, and there, fell in love with Merlin, the most ambitious magic show conceived up to that time. Thanks greatly to the genius of Jim Steinmeyer.

I saw the show in previews and, since then, have searched everywhere for a film or videotape of the entire production. No luck! I am convinced that, somewhere, someone has a copy of that production. I hope, I hope. Maybe, there has been a release but, if so, I missed it. Does anyone know where one might obtain a complete filming of Henning's Merlin. Thanks.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/22/07 06:39 PM

No films.

I'm sure that the folks producing the show taped it nightly for the purpose of watching and tweaking it, but those tapes would never have been meant for release. So, it's highly unlikely you'll ever see anything released for Merlin.
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Postby Guest » 07/22/07 06:50 PM

Here's the commercial for the show:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsX43madhDQ

You'll see the Mascot Moth at the very end.

Also, I believe Jim Steinmeyer, who was working for Doug at the time, detailed the story of re-creating the Moth for that show in an article in MAGIC.
He also tells the story of the original Mascot Moth, a fascinating tale, in Art & Artifice, if memory serves.
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Postby Guest » 07/23/07 06:58 AM

If I recall correctly, "Merlin" never really OPENED. I saw it twice, about 4 months apart, and it was almost a different show. It remained in preview-mode for its entire run.

I liked it.....both times. I'd LOVE to see a video.

Adrian

PS: I'd also like to see a video of "Fiorello" but that ain't gonna happen. <grin>
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Postby Bill Wells » 07/23/07 07:53 AM

Go see Lance's Show at the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas. He does the Mascot Moth in every show althought not with the disappearance of the cape as in the Merlin version.

Bill
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Postby JKeppel » 07/23/07 08:25 AM

Well you can't OBTAIN Merlin but you can certainly see it. For the past 25 years all plays and musicals have been recorded for posterity. They are held in the Billy Rose Theater collection at Lincoln Center, associated with the New York Public Library. You cant take it out but can sit there and watch it on a viewer.
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Postby Guest » 07/23/07 08:28 AM

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Adrian Kuiper:
[QB] If I recall correctly, "Merlin" never really OPENED. I saw it twice, about 4 months apart, and it was almost a different show. It remained in preview-mode for its entire run.

I liked it.....both times. I'd LOVE to see a video.

Adrian
______________


Adrian, this really surprises me, as I saw the show near the end of its Broadway run, and loved it. The surprising thing about your comment above is that the production number, "It's About Magic," was featured on the Tony Awards show one year.

Although it's possible for a show that closed in previews to be featured on the Tony Awards program, it's still quite surprising, if that's the case. However, anything's possible.

Just two years ago I had chance to compliment Charles Reynolds on his role as magical consultant to "Merlin," and he seemed to be justifiably pleased and proud of the show.

Because of the very heavy special equipment requirements, the show couldn't be effectively trouped to other venues, so there was an economic factor that prevented most of us from seeing it as a road show. But I do agree, it was a great production. Even the lay audience responded very well.

Jack
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Postby Guest » 07/23/07 08:56 AM

http://www.talkinbroadway.com/talkin/merlin.html


The above writeup states that the show opened on 2/13/83 and ran for 199 performances.

Guess my memory is fading after all these years....<grin>

Adrian
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Postby Guest » 07/23/07 09:01 AM

Okay, I just Googled: "doug henning merlin talkin broadway" and found a most interesting article by the designer of dressing rooms for "Merlin." I suggest that you, too, Google it, if only for a couple of surprises.

Here's a quote from the article. It's particularly relevant to our discussion on the "preview" status of the show:

"When the show went into previews, there were many technical problems, and the opening date was cancelled three times. The New York critics decided enough was enough, and went to review it before it's official opening date. They universally hated it. Henning couldn't act or sing. Rivera and Lane were professional enough in their acting and singing skills, and so was Rebecca Wright as a unicorn ballerina. However, it was Hennings name that brought the public in to this flop of a musical. It opened on February 13, 1983 and ran for seven months. (199 performances). A very young Christin Slater was in the cast. He was 13 at the time, and Merlin was his fourth Broadway show."
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Postby Guest » 07/23/07 09:17 AM

Despite the critics panning the show, audiences seemed to love it, and they loved Doug. There were standing ovations in every show, I'm told.

My understanding is that the show closed for reasons other than poor audience response.

- entity
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Postby Roger M. » 07/23/07 09:51 AM

Not everybody panned the show.
Besides getting 5 nominations for a Tony award, both the New York Times and Time Magazine both gave the show very positive reviews.
The show also set (at the time) the weekly box office record for any Broadway show, almost half a million dollars.
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Postby Guest » 07/23/07 10:04 AM

Jack....

The URL I posted above IS the article you mention.

Adrian
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Postby Guest » 07/23/07 11:44 AM

Originally posted by Adrian Kuiper:
Jack....

The URL I posted above IS the article you mention.

Adrian
Adrian,

I know; I saw your note as soon as I posted. Didn't know that you were still working on it.

For the others: Note that I really enjoyed the show. The negative comments came from (ugh!) "critics." And thanks much for the info that the show is available for viewing at the Billy Rose collection in Lincoln Center. Wouldn't it be wonderful if such items also could be accessed in Bill Kalush's archives? It would save much ga$oline. ;)

Thanks again,

Jack
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Postby Guest » 07/23/07 11:53 AM

It was not "hated".

Think about it folks, you had a musical where one of the three stars could not sing or dance, one had no credible nemesis to confront and the other had only a straight man who could not play it straight.

Sheesh.

And the critics were not unkind. Even in the book about Broadway flops from Superman on... there were kind to Merlin.

Last I heard Nathan Lane occasionally jokes about the show, and not at Henning's expense.
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Postby JKeppel » 07/23/07 12:14 PM

I was in the audience on a night when they couldnt get one of the big mechanical pieces in the second act to work. Nathan Lane came out in front of the closed curtain and did schtick. I'll never forget his one line, "I am the comic relief, no matter WHAT the critics say". I also was in the audience when Henning was filming one of his last TV specials. THERES a lot of material for another thread, lol
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/23/07 12:15 PM

Building a musical around Doug, who could not act, sing, or dance, was not a well-considered idea. There were also problems with the book, producers, etc.
Someday I hope Jim Steinmeyer, who was responsible for the magic in the show, will write about it in detail.
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Postby Guest » 07/23/07 01:53 PM

Quote from the article:
However, it was Hennings name that brought the public in to this flop of a musical. It opened on February 13, 1983 and ran for seven months. (199 performances)."
This quote reveals either a personal agenda or a staggering lack of understanding of Broadway. No show that runs for 7 months is a flop. It's not a hit, sure. But a flop closes much sooner than that.

One big problem with Merlin is that it was never going to be practical to have a second production in another town and/or a national tour, and national tours are big sources of income for Broadway productions. The show was expensive and quite possibly wasn't making the producers much money on Broadway, so eventually it was closed so the money involved could be spent on something else.
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Postby Guest » 07/23/07 02:35 PM

http://www.bluegobo.com/video/_production.php?var=10220


The above URL is a performance by the Merlin cast on the 1983 Tony Awards show.

Enjoy
Adrian


PS: The web site above has clips of MANY shows. Many from appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show. Even had clips from "Fiorello" and "Camelot".
Enjoy them......I did.

Adrian
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 07/23/07 02:39 PM

According to someone on the inside, the fact of the matter is that Doug Henning was tired of the nightly grind and wanted to take a lengthy break from the show. The producers decided to close it instead.

Was the show perfect? No. By the time it opened for previews, the directorwho apparently didnt really understand magic wellhad removed a lot of the magic. The mistake was realized and they started putting the magic back in, which caused other issues. Changes in a show that complex create a ripple effect with other aspects of it, particularly within the cast and crew. That got the unions involved and, to put it simply, there were no simple solutions. Of course, by the time the show was fixed, the New York critics had slammed it. But the theater patrons were still going.

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Postby Guest » 07/23/07 09:18 PM

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Adrian Kuiper:
[QB] http://www.bluegobo.com/video/_production.php?var=10220


The above URL is a performance by the Merlin cast on the 1983 Tony Awards show.

Enjoy
Adrian
________________________________________

Adrian, that's a great reminder of two wonderful evenings in 1983 ... one at the Hellinger, and one at the TV tube. Most enjoyable, and thanks very much.

Jack
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Postby Guest » 07/24/07 04:42 AM

Art and Artifice (Advert here on my right --->)
Has a wonderfull write up on the moth, and its development from the few hints at its original construction, to the first night of Merlin.
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Postby Guest » 07/24/07 04:46 AM

Originally posted by Pete McCabe:


One big problem with Merlin is that it was never going to be practical to have a second production in another town and/or a national tour, and national tours are big sources of income for Broadway productions. The show was expensive and quite possibly wasn't making the producers much money on Broadway, so eventually it was closed so the money involved could be spent on something else.
Of course, Not an issue these days. With shows like Beauty and the beast, and chitty chitty bang bang,touring all over the place, i would imagine that with a bit of tweeking, it could tour.
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Postby Guest » 07/24/07 05:33 AM

Has anyone actually viewed this at Lincoln Center? The last I checked (about fifteen years ago), this was on a format called open reel 1/2 inch. I was doing lots of restorations for Lincoln Center, and offered to restore that, and a recording of Jeff Sheridan in Central Park, for free...but never got a responce. Restorations were very timely, and expensive. I did get to work with a guy who claims to have shot all of that stuff..for Linclon Center. They were all one camera shoots, back of the theatre, sticks locked. If I remember right, they had The Magic Show, or the first twenty minutes of it anyway.
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 08/13/07 03:20 PM

I just was reading Merv's obit and it mentions a clip from the Merlin show on You Tube. It's with Chita Rivera.
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Postby Guest » 08/13/07 03:45 PM

Thanks for finding it... fun clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnKzs0kYlLo

:)
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Postby Guest » 08/13/07 03:58 PM

Originally posted by Jonathan Townsend:
Thanks for finding it... fun clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnKzs0kYlLo
Fun? Or painfully irritating?

-
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Postby Guest » 08/13/07 06:16 PM

Originally posted by Steve Hook:
Originally posted by Jonathan Townsend:
[b] Thanks for finding it... fun clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnKzs0kYlLo
Fun? Or painfully irritating?

- [/b]
You don't like Chita? <gasp>

I can still recall the first reviews that described how she chased Henning around and off the stage ... Now can we find some Nathan Lane clips?

BTW I heard she was even doing that kick stuff in the production of "Kiss of the Spider Woman"... no idea why.
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Postby Guest » 08/13/07 07:01 PM

Is this based on the story of "Merlin"?

And is Chita playing Morgan La Fay?
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Postby Guest » 08/13/07 07:57 PM

Originally posted by mai-ling:
Is this based on the story of "Merlin"?

And is Chita playing Morgan La Fay?
That was the original idea.

What would up happening was Chita played "the queen" and Nathan Lane played "the prince" <- Mordred done for comedy.
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