Glenn Priest (far left), Brian Lumley (Middle), and Doug
Were you interested in magic before you met Doug?
In a word no. Not Lesley, Glen, or myself had any experience with stage magic. We had each seen or performed magic on our own but that is another story. It is also why we each had a solid belief in what Doug wanted to do.
Can you talk about the illusion challenges you experienced in the original production of”Spellbound?”
That’s a great can of worms you’ve opened up. Every illusion in the show was a challenge. We did not know which one was going to act up next and they all did somehow. Our experience with some of these illusions was just three weeks of frantic activity before show time. With others it was closer to two months working on one or two specific problems. Some problems did not go away until The Magic Show had been running for almost a year. The Bed of Horrors was a nightmare. Sometimes it worked and sometimes the magician had to run because of a malfunction; I’m not exaggerating.
Doug put the illusions for Spellbound and The Magic Show together himself. He chose them and rounded them up from various places. The jobs Glen and I had were building or tailoring the illusions to fit Doug’s style.
If we were making something from scratch like a Fire Bowel he would demonstrate his motions and tell us how he wanted to make the appearance… In Spellbound I built the flaming bowl, the floating candle, the base for the cougar cage, stage tables and flash torches. Doug already had the Zig Zag, and the Sawing in Half…
Spellbound was standing room only from the first day of pre-production at the Royal Alexandra to its closing three weeks later. It broke all previous box office attendance at that theater. Every show was a rainstorm of fouled illusions. It seemed like every illusion took a shot at us. The only one that never failed us was the Sword Levitation. At one point I wondered if people were coming to see which big trick would capsize or have a train wreck.
Doug always did a personal magic show within the show on stage. Those shows were spellbinding and the audience always appreciated them. I think they held it all together.
Can you talk about Doug and the way he came up with ideas?
Bringing the Grand Illusion back to the Great Stage was Doug’s dream. He simply did his homework. Because it was his dream, he had been looking for illusions that suited his style. As he performed the illusions he became better at it, which opened the doors to new ideas. It was a natural exponential curve. He did not have any trouble coming up with the illusions for Spellbound…
What was your working relationship like with Glenn Priest?
Both of us grew into our positions. We were a team… and each of us had our specialties. In November 1974, I took the national road show (of The Magic Show) out which meant we each had to do each other’s jobs. Me on the road, and Glen in NYC had to teach a new assistant to do our jobs. This worked out fine and helped us wean ourselves off of Broadway.
As a rule I did the carpentry and rigging. Glen did the smaller things such as early miniature motorization and remote control. Glen took care of the rabbits and doves. I took care of the large cats. Each of us did our own drafting and drawings.
What lessons did you ultimately learn from “Spellbound?”
Carpe diem – Doug was right, his theory worked. People wanted magic. Everybody had a positive attitude, and the ball was in play. Keep the ball rolling!