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Magician Doug Leferovich: How to tell a story without words

Editor’s Note: After a glorious nearly month-long family vacation in the Italian and Sicilian countryside, Robin Leach is back and resuming his new daily columns today with a look at Libertine Social from chef Shawn McClain that opened this week at Mandalay Bay. We’ll continue guest columnists in August while Robin works from the cooler climes of La Jolla near San Diego in advance of our newly designed website launching soon.

On Friday in his debut Neon column, Robin has a preview of the Magic Live! convention heading here next week for 1,600 worldwide illusionists, conjurors, magicians and wizards. Today, one of his guest columns is from Las Vegas magician Doug Leferovich, who performs daily with magician Murray Sawchuck at Planet Hollywood. Here’s Doug to explain how to tell a story without words.

By Doug Leferovich

Being a performer and consultant for more than a dozen shows on the Las Vegas Strip, I get the unique opportunity to tell stories without words. For me, shows are about creating pictures, using visuals to create what is normally used with words. I truly believe that a picture is worth a thousand words. From lighting to set design to casting and serving as technical director, my job as a consultant is to accentuate what is happening onstage and help fill in the gaps of the story.

Working with Adam Steck and Alex Schechter of SPI Entertainment, I was hired as lighting designer for residency headliners Boyz II Men at The Mirage. The lyrics of their songs tell such a distinct story, it was my job to make the lighting reflect the mood and vibe. I added multiple lighting cues to each song and tried to create intimate moments where just the three guys were lit onstage to over-the-top moments like during the Motown section or “Motownphilly.”

Again working for SPI Entertainment, I was hired as casting director to employ specialty acts for ROCKTELLZ AND COCKTAILS starring Meatloaf at Planet Hollywood. For this job, Meat Loaf had the story figured out and knew which characters he wanted in the story. It was my job to help find the local specialty acts that fit his vision and would bring his story to life.

After the opening three songs of the show, Meat Loaf was downstage talking about how this show was not going to be a Cirque du Soleil/circus-type fiasco with fire eaters, tumblers, jugglers and clowns. As Meat Loaf talked, each particular “act” would be in the show upstage walking across the stage, the acts paraded showcasing their talents while Meat Loaf was unaware that this was happening.

Most recently, I had the pleasure of working with Jennifer Romas and JRR Enterprises to help create the video content for her show SEXXY at Westgate Las Vegas. Jen and I used three LED video panels above the stage to create digital scenery that enhanced the story of each scene. We first determined the vibe, mood and what each scene of the show was.

Then we worked together to figure out what static images would accent the girls dancing onstage without pulling focus from their dance moves. For example, there is a scene in the show where a male volunteer from the audience sits on a chair onstage while the girls dance around him in classic schoolgirl costumes.

We decided to play on the typical “bad student” scenario, where students would have to stay after school and write repeatedly on the chalkboard what they did wrong. Each of the panels became its own chalkboard with something funny and naughty written on them.

The best and clearest example of not using words to tell a story is for my day job, being the guest act in Murray Sawchuck’s show at Planet Hollywood. Inspired by the great silent comedians of yesterday like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Roscoe “Fatty “Arbuckle, my character, Lefty, does not speak.

I use body gestures and facial expression to convey to the audience what my character is feeling. I often say that by taking away one of the audience’s senses (me speaking), I find that they pay closer attention since my performance is purely visual.

In the end, whether consulting on a show or performing onstage, my goal is to make the show the best it can be, to help further the story while accomplishing the vision of producers. I guess you could say that my goal is to leave the audience the same way I am when performing: Speechless! More: DouglasLeferovich.com and Facebook.com/DouglasLeftyLeferovich.

Be sure to check out our other guest columnist today, culinary magician Elizabeth Blau on her magical journey through Ireland. Robin also has the food spotlight on chef Shawn McClain’s Libertine Social that opened this week at Mandalay Bay.

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