JONATHAN LEVIT

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LEARN MORE THAN A TRICK:

"Besides the strong magic that is explained, the set of discs is a five-hour graduate course in the construction of magic, audience management- and connection- as well as performance art."

"Applying the concepts he teaches to our own shows will put us all ahead of the game."

“A master class in entertainment!"

“These are masterful, amazing routines
 Jonathan has taken  years to perfect.”

“Do yourself a favor and watch these DVDs.”

“More magicians need to think this way.”

INCLUDED:

THE FOLLOWING ROUTINES ARE EXPLAINED:

Everything Changes

Draw A Blank

Levit Triumph

The Un-Matrix

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REVIEWS

To my magician friends: I just purchased/viewed Jonathan Levit's excellent new DVD, Ahead of the Game. It is a master class on how to ENTERTAIN an audience with killer magical routines. He effectively masks his

considerable sleight of hand skills with subtlety , humor and a monster stage personna...In the explanations and the many one on one interviews he tips how he gets 2 or 3 steps ahead of the spectators during his performance, allowing him to be set for huge impact climaxes waaay

in advance. Watching how he manages a magically hip(and somewhat inebriated) Magic Castle crowd was a revelation to me. I don't know Jonathan personally but after watching his performances.. I feel like I know

him, and that I would probably like him.... How cool izzat? HIGHLY RECOMMENDED !!

Getting a grasp on Jonathan Levit’s character is sort of like getting a grasp on a greasy bowling ball. While wearing mittens. Without thumbs. Is this guy in therapy? If not, should he be? Well, at least he is not a danger to himself or others, we really like him, so let’s sit back and see where this neurotic’s ride takes us.

Rest assured, this is—at least in my view (since I know Jonathan)—all very much a part of the act. And that is what you get on these two discs: the real secrets behind an act. No, not his strange character, and not all of the methods behind the magic tricks; but the thinking and the process that goes into his formal—and formidable—close-up show.

Mr. Levit is an actor as well as a magician. He is well versed in improvisation, so each of his shows—though structurally the same—is a different experience since the audience members react differently to the strange man— and the strange goings on happening—in front of them. That is why there are videos of two different performances of the same act on the first disc. They are the same, only different.

These were filmed in the Peller Theatre at The Magic Castle. One is just over a half hour long while the other is four minutes shorter even though they have exactly the same magic in them.

After watching the performances, the viewer can then watch them again with accompanying commentary from Mr. Levit. During the first show, he’s joined by Anthony Asimov, this project’s producer. During this commentary, besides the talk about what is happening from a performance and structural aspect, they also talk about some of the magic techniques used, so—in this case only—I would suggest watching the explanations that are on the second disc so that everything stays in context. The second commentary segment is Mr. Levit alone and focuses on performance (including comedy), theory, and technique. Both segments are fantastic lessons in the art behind the craft of magic.

Included on this disc is a 37-minute interview between Levit and Asimov that covers everything from Levit’s youth to working with Jim Steinmeyer at the Los Angeles Conference on Magic History.

The second disc explains some—not all—of the magic he performs. He is joined by Suzanne during these explanations. The technical theme of Levit’s magic is where this production finds its title: Ahead of the Game. He really likes to be one or even two steps ahead. “Quadrorevelation” is a four-card revelation routine, even though only three of the cards are revealed during that trick, including a card on seat. The final reveal happens when a card selected during another routine changes to one merely thought of during this first one. If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. It takes 43 minutes to explain. But do not kid yourself; it’s worth it.

“Everything Changes” is a complete routine where a signed selection, then the deck, the Jokers (that were set aside earlier), and even the card case change color. (The Color Changing Card Case—his “C4” effect—is optional as it is sold separately. Without it, if one simply puts the case away at the outset the “Everything Changes” theme can still be met.) His take on “Triumph” is explained and that is followed by “Draw a Blank.” After “Triumph,” the signed selection is found at a freely chosen number in the deck. And then that deck—the one that has already changed color, been shuffled face up and face down, and has been in play the entire time—turns all blank on the faces. “I disappeared the cards!” he says. Indeed.

Yes, it requires a deck switch (and you can use any that you have at your disposal or purchase the same one he did to accomplish it). But he is, as the theme goes, way ahead of the game, and that is the lesson here; the marvelous construction of these routines. He talks about the only non-card effect he performs in his show: his “Un-Matrix.” Except for the coin steal he uses, this is not explained because it’s sold as a separate manuscript on his website. The effect is incredibly strong and is his closing piece. After the “Matrix” using two cards and four coins, the coins all vanish. It’s worth noting that Jonathan is standing during this routine.

Besides the strong magic that is explained, this set of discs is a five-hour graduate course in the construction of magic, audience management—and connection—as well as performance art. I highly recommend it.

Jonathan Levit wins the game before it has started.

Can’t. Stop. Smiling. In his two-disc DVD set, Jonathan Levit shares two thoroughly entertaining close-up shows, intricately complicated but well-taught instructions on his effects and routining, and two more in-depth interviews discussing his philosophy of constructing strong magical performances. And it’s wonderful.

From an entertainment standpoint, every performing magician could learn a lot by watching Levit in action and interaction throughout his shows. The effects are strong, yes. They’re almost all card effects — a possible turn-off for some. But the effects are almost inconsequential compared to the rapport that Levit develops from the second he steps up to the table. It is largely because of this rapport that he is able to not only entertain but repeatedly and thoroughly fool laity and magicians alike.

For those interested in learning the “tricks,” the technical methods are well within the reach of magicians with moderate sleight-of-hand skills. He demonstrates and teaches his fan force, peek, and a bold but truly fun card load, with clarity enough for the viewer to understand. More importantly, he teaches the timing and misdirection involved in all of the sleights. If one missed the blatant hint in the title of this DVD set: he does everything far in advance of when the audience suspects anything to have happened.

Seeing the same show performed twice for two different audiences sheds some important light on how a skilled worker can keep things fresh, based on the variables that each audience provides, while maintaining control by relying on the underlying structure of the show. One can then watch the performances again with Levit’s audio commentary, in which he discusses the fine points of how he handles audience members and adjusts for things don’t quite go according to plan.

The show begins a four-card selection and revelation sequence, with a combination of methods and increasingly impressive payoffs that carry on throughout the show. Everything Changes is a color-changing deck routine in which, well, everything changes: the signed card, the deck, the previously removed Jokers, and the card box. The color-changing card box is a separate sale item that is quite a pretty fooler but not taught on the DVDs. In Draw a Blank, the deck used throughout the show turns entirely blank. The final piece is an elegant Matrix routine that ends with all four coins vanishing. Levit does not teach this routine, but he does talk about it in the interview section and the audio commentary.

The interviews, with Anthony Asimov and Suzanne, are as interesting and informative as the instructional segments themselves. In the interviews, Levit sheds light on his own story as a performer, how he connects with audiences, his concepts of how to construct an act, and the importance his acting study has had over the past eighteen years. Seeing Levit apply these concepts for two live shows is a refreshing inspiration. Applying the concepts he teaches to our own shows will put us all ahead of the game.

“Ahead of the Game” is a two DVD set devoted to Jonathan Levit’s complete close up act, as performed at the Magic Castle. The set contain two full performances, both of which can also be viewed with a real time commentary by Mr. Levit and his producer, Anthony Asimov. The discs also include explanations for the majority of the effects seen, as well as an interview of Mr. Levit by Mr. Asimov, plus discussions between Mr. Levit and Suzanne covering several ideas related to his approach to performance.

Any time a successful working professional shares what he or she performs for paying audiences, magicians should sit up and take notice. In this case, Mr. Levit doesn’t just reveal the tricks he performs; he reveals his entire act. The magic is incredibly well constructed, not just within the methods of the individual effects, but throughout the entire show. The name of the set says it all: Mr. Levit is far, far ahead of the audience at almost every point in the act. He accomplishes this using a combination of, among other things, subtle time misdirection, clever construction, and an extremely engaging and entertaining presentation. This combination results in magic that has a very deep level of deception. The level of thought and time that has gone into the development of every moment of his act is incredible and is an example of the level of work every magician should put into their performances.

Of course, trying to teach how a well-constructed act is built can be a challenging endeavor, but thankfully the instruction on this DVD set is excellent. The discussions of methods are extensive and complete, and include not just the method, but also the practical theory behind the method’s construction. His instruction also includes tips learned through hundreds of performances, and he offers suggestions for classic methods and effects that will make them not only more practical, but also more deceptive. In additional to the explanations, Mr. Levit also discusses show structure, character and connecting to the audience, concepts that are critical to the success of any performance.

The material covered includes a four-card revelation, a color changing deck routine, a version of ACAAN, triumph and a matrix. In writing this review, I hesitated to list the contents because these bare bones titles do not do justice to these effects as performed by Mr. Levit. In his hands these routines are not only wildly entertaining and incredibly powerful, but he has woven them into an act that feels like a show, not a disjointed series of tricks. And even if the viewer has one or more of these routines in his or her repertoire, there are likely ideas and approaches that can be appropriated to improve one’s own handling. And to reiterate an earlier point, Mr. Levit’s approach to show design and method construction can be applied to any effect and any act, regardless of the actual magic performed.

It should be noted Mr. Levit’s matrix and color changing card case are not explained on the DVD set. (Both are available as separate purchases.) The color changing card case is gimmicked and the matrix is truly a showpiece, which I believe justifies their separate releases. Regardless, the quality and volume of valuable content in this set eclipses any disappointment one might experience not learning these two routines. And given the quality of this release, as well as how powerful the effects are in performance, I’m certain both the color changing card case and matrix are worth every additional penny.

 

“Ahead of the Game” contains a complete act, filled with extremely powerful and deceptive magic, performed by a wildly entertaining and engaging performer. The methods are clever, deceptive, practical and have been used in the real world in hundreds of performances. The theories and ideas presented are useful, impactful and can be seen practically applied in shows performed for real audiences. Purchasing this DVD set is an absolute no brainer. There is no magician who couldn’t benefit from studying it. I give it my highest recommendation.

"Jonathan Levit presents his professional act that he performs at The Magic Castle on a regular basis. He then teaches the entire act. In itself, this would be a very worthwhile product for any magician to purchase and learn from. BUT, then he takes it way over the top. The conversation that he has with Suzanne about all of his thoughts on structure, performance and presentation of the act and magic in general is a Master Class and should be required study for any performing magician. It is well worth watching again and again.”

Magician, actor ("Desperate Acts of Magic"), TV host and more, Jonathan Levit is a magician's magician and an amazing, charismatic talent. With his new DVD: “Jonathan Levit: Ahead of the Game,” he offers insights into his brilliant and entertaining close-up magic show.

One Ahead

The title, “Ahead of the Game,” is particularly appropriate as it describes how Levit fries magicians and spectators alike. Here, Levit teaches baffling and entertaining routines. But you’ll find aspects that are flawlessly interwoven even between routines. It’s all masterful fun.

The Routines

Levit's Quadrorevelation is his powerful opener where four cards are selected by audience members and then revealed, one by one. The routine relies on a clever combination of forces, peeks and additional methods, all of which Levit teaches. In one revelation, the spectator finds that she’s sitting on the selected card.

Everything Changes offers a stunning blue-backed deck to red deck color change. The kicker is that the spectator’s signed card goes from being a blue-backed card to a red one. It’s killer.

Not content with the amazing color change, Levit takes things further with Draw A Blank. Here, the deck is freely handled throughout Levit’s impressive "any card at any number" (ACAAN) effect where a spectator’s card is found at a numbered location in the deck that has been freely named by a spectator. Levit not only deals and counts to the designated location and reveals that the spectator’s card is residing there, the rest of the deck turns blank.

Creating Alternate Realities

The tricks are great but it’s the insights into Levit’s approach to creating and performing a close-up act that is the real benefit of this DVD set. Throughout, the words “organic” and “motivated” define his goals and every move and segment looks natural and each is thoroughly motivated. (He also likes the word "absurd.")

You’ll learn how Levit not only stays a step ahead of his audiences, but often three or four. Even magicians who are accustomed to analyzing moves and shows will be surprised at his many revelations. You’ll also learn that Levit’s act requires lots of concentration.

As a result, this DVD is effectively an advanced lesson in magic entertainment.

Explanations

There are two live performances that were filmed at The Magic Castle and both feature “director-style” commentary tracks to provide additional insights.

The instructions are first rate. Suzanne (click here to read my review of her first rate DVD) discusses with Levit the many topics and does a great job of drawing out insights. There are also brief discussions on how to connect with audiences and create a character.

Levit’s act is specifically designed for the Magic Castle’s close-up room, a venue that’s rare in the real world. Aspects of his routines could be adapted to strolling and walkaround situations, but the heart of this act is for a dedicated close-up venue and show.

If you just want to learn tricks and sleights, this is probably not the DVD for you. But if you've mastered moves and have established close-up routines, this DVD may provide you with insights into creating a great close-up show.

Normally I like to open up my reviews by doing a little quick plug on what the trick is or what it is suppose to look like.  I really can’t do that for this DVD because it’s not just a single trick.  It’s a lot more than that.  It’s a full on study of performance theory, set structure, with a few tricks tossed in for good measure and all from the perspective of master entertainer Jonathan Levit.  A Head Of The Game is Jonathan’s secret to crafting his amazing magic shows.  It’s his secret weapon and he’s tipping it to you with this informative two disk DVD set.

In the first DVD you get to see not one but two of Jonathan’s full close up shows as filmed at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.  This will be valuable later on as you start to learn the methods behind his madness to how he creates such powerfully entertaining shows in the second DVD.  It’s a great reference guide to have so you can look back on his performances and say to yourself “Oooh… THAT’s what he’s talking about!”  And to make this learning process even sweeter Jonathan includes a special commentary track that you can play over the performance so you can get into his head and know what he’s thinking as he is performing; step by step, move by move.

The second DVD is where we really get into the meat and potatoes of the material Jonathan covers.  You basically get three lessons in performance theory taught by Jonathan himself, and then he shows you his takes on four classic, but powerful, close up plots.   The extra section is just an area to plug different products such as Jonathan’s own brand of magic wands which are beautiful looking accessories made by a skilled craftsman (his father).

The magic taught on this DVD isn’t anything new.  These tricks have been around for quite a while, and many magicians have contributed their own handlings to these effects.  Jonathan’s handlings, ideas, and notes though are worth paying attention to.  He’s quite skilled at figuring out where the magic moments are and how to maximize them for his audiences.  Even if you already have your own preferred methods for doing things like A.C.A.A.N, or Triumph, it’s well worth looking into Jonathan’s versions.  I especially loved his Everything Changes routine which is a blue-red card color change with a devastating ending.

The real power in this product doesn’t come from the tricks that are being taught, but the gold mine of information Jonathan shares with you on how to create a successful act.  There’s a lot of DVD’s on the market that will show you how to do a magic trick, but Ahead Of The Game is one of the very few that will show you how to be a magician.  I am so grateful that I picked this DVD up.  This was a rare find and a real score.  I can’t recommend this DVD enough!  Well done Mr. Levit.  Well done indeed!

When I give my product scores below I am measuring them on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 Being absolute the worst score possible, and 10 being the absolute best, making a score of five average. The four points that I grade upon is Product Quality, Teaching Quality, Sound & Video Quality and Overall Quality.

Product Quality: 9

Honestly I would have probably gladly paid more than the  retail price for this DVD had I known in advance what was all on it.  It’s worth every penny.

Teaching Quality: 8

Welcome to class students.  Your professor today is Jonathan Levit, and the teacher is in!

Video & Sound Quality: 9

Excellent Video and Sound.

Overall Quality: 9

Seriously, you need to own this DVD.  Now!  I highly recommend it.

What an amazing performer and what a great set of DVDs! He shows his entire Magic Castle Act, not once, but twice. It is really educational to see two sets of performances where you see how he reacts to different audiences. His set is masterfully crafted, the magic is very strong, and the audience entertainment is tremendous!

He presents a series of card effects and ends with a coin matrix. In all his routines, you can see how he has thought them through and created effects that draw the audience in. You can see how he has worked on his character. He talks about how his character is the person he “wishes he could be” in his day to day life. What a wonderful way to build a character! His routines are mostly classic routines like ACAAN, Triumph, Matrix, etc. However, he has worked them out to the point where you either don’t recognize them for what they are until the end, or you see just how entertaining a classic effect done by so many magicians can be in the hands of someone who has thought them through creatively.

Jonathan- Your new "Ahead of the Game" DVDs are fantastic.  I don't do a lot of card work in part because so much card magic is boring and not very entertaining to me.  But you, my friend, had me from the first moment.  Even if I never do any of your effects, your lessons on time misdirection, structuring an act and thinking are more than worth the cost of the DVDs.  Thank you for a wonderful gift to the magic community.