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Amazing success for a new kind of Magic Show

Chiang Mai International School’s performance, “Into the Woods”, at the Kad Theatre


Amazing success for a new kind of Magic Show

Audience of 4,000 applauds the Hill Tribe Magic Show at CMU

Tess Itura
Everybody was certainly nervous on the morning of March 26, or, maybe, anxious would be a better word to use! We had all heard that Chiang Mai was a “killing stage”, and that, very quickly, artists performing at the venue would be able to feel the reaction and sentiments of the spectators… good or bad.

Count Gerald van der Straten Ponthoz with Jakrapob Penkair, Minister of the Prime Minister Office.
We were also anxious to know if a Chiang Mai audience would even be interested in hill tribe magic! Would they like the show? Would they love the hill tribe magicians? Would they appreciate the countless hours spent in creating a new kind of magic show?
Three days before, the same troupe of young magicians had performed in Chiang Rai for over 100 VIPs who came from as far as Belgium, Malaysia and Bangkok.
Amongst them were members of the Thai and International corporate world, diplomats, nobles and representatives of the Palace in Bangkok. The gala dinner at Insii Thai House had been a big success and everybody had congratulated the students. But… Chiang Mai would be different. Much bigger, much grander, much more impressive, much riskier… Besides over 400 VIPs, the local consuls, the managers both of high quality hotels and of large companies, the event was going to be presided over by Jakrapob Penkair, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office. Nothing could go wrong in order to not disappoint these important guests. But it wasn’t only about VIPs… What would the reaction of the 3,600 other guests be?

A song from a beautifully costumed young Hill Tribe girl.
Only one show. Only one chance to succeed or fail to capture the hearts of the Chiang Mai people. Probably more important in the eyes of the young artists was the reaction of the huge number of hill tribe peoples who were coming to Chiang Mai to watch “their” magicians. The reaction of thousands of spectators who would judge their abilities… “Anxious” was certainly the word to describe the atmosphere that morning!
The guests started to arrive at the Chiang Mai University Convention Hall around 6 pm. VIPs were offered a cocktail party in the Sala room, whilst the rest of the audience started to queue near the gates. Very quickly, the grounds of the Convention Hall were full of people and the doors had to be opened earlier than foreseen.
On their way to their seats, guests could view an art exhibition organized by the students of the Suksasongkroh Maechan School with their as yet unseen products; ceramics, hill tribe batiks, woodwork and furniture. Other students of the Hill Tribe Violin Band were greeting the spectators in the enormous hall with Thai melodies and songs of the hills. The Hill Tribe Rock Band followed with popular Akha and Hmong pop songs. At 7 pm the Convention Hall was packed, with not only all seats occupied, but also crowds of people sitting on the stairs! The Chiang Mai people had responded and come in force… Anxiety transformed itself into jubilation!
At 7.15 Count Gerald van der Straten Ponthoz, students of the Suksasongkroh Maechan School, Rotary members and representatives of the government’s Public Relations Office awaiting the arrival of Jakrapob Penkair, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, who was coming from Bangkok. The minister was greeted and welcomed in the Sala room where he received a gift from the students who had prepared the exhibition. He then took his seat in the VVIP area with Count Gerald van der Straten Ponthoz, the Governor of Chiang Mai Wiboon Sa-nguanphong, the Executive Director of the government’s Public Relations Office Somjai Sasomsarp and several diplomats, including the Consuls of India and Greece.
The stage looked grandiose, with its giant colorfully painted playing cards as décor, as well as with the 40 hill tribe performers, dancers and musicians who accompanied the magicians throughout the show. Traditional music and modern pop songs were blended with magic. Hill tribe costumes added even more charm to this yet unseen way of performing magic on stage for more than one and a half hour.
The approach of the young magicians in creating their show was resolutely different from whatever had been done before. Small theater plays or poems accompanied the magic tricks, smooth rhythms or loud drum performances built the atmosphere, and humor made spectators laugh. Audience reaction was loud, and very, very positive!
Whilst the aim of the young magicians was to surprise the audience and make both kids and adults enjoy their show, they also wanted to remember someone who was of great importance to the country and sadly left us recently. The show stopped briefly to remember HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana whilst the Chiang Rai Youth Orchestra played in her honor.

A young hill tribe magician “doing his stuff” with the Minister, Jakrapob Penkair.
After such a successful performance, the students can be very proud of their achievements, but one must not forget that such a production required many more talents. The students’ teacher, Sylvain Sluys, (Sylvain the Magician), from Belgium, had to work hard to transfer his magic knowledge in such a short time. The musicians had to work hard to adapt their tones to magic. Dancers were part of the show all along and the violinists were constantly in the background. Not forgetting the backstage team who prepared the stage and the lighting, and the government’s Public Relations Office who made it possible to reach the audience in the remotest mountains to allow the new Hill Tribe Magic Troupe to gain instant fame amongst their own people. All of them succeeded in transforming the show into a “Hollywood style production” which will not be easily forgotten.
It should also be remembered that the Hill Tribe Magic Show is part of a broader project by Count Gerald van der Straten Ponthoz and the Rotary Club of Maechan, conceived to give the youngsters a chance to reach for a brighter future with their new and very special knowledge. Everyone involved hopes that these skills will allow the students, who all come from disadvantaged families, to make extra revenues. To this aim, it is now the task of the corporate world to help these young magicians, who have their own identity and their own show. They make a different magic, they have a different charm. To become world class magicians the students will need to perform even more, and have already been offered shows in two hotels and in Penang. Hopefully, this is only the beginning. The real magic will occur when these students will be able to use their skills to come out of poverty and, (why not!), become internationally applauded magicians.

Audience participation in a Hill Tribe Magic trick.

Is this Hill Tribe Magic hypnotism?

Belgian magician Sylvain Sluys, who came to Thailand to teach magic to a group of 10 Hill Tribe students, with his assistants during the performance.

All smiles from the Hill Tribe violin band.

Sylvian the Magician, with his troupe.

The huge audience at the CMU Convention Centre, all enjoying the show.

The show’s over - it’s an amazing success - everyone’s overjoyed!


Chiang Mai International School’s performance, “Into the Woods”, at the Kad Theatre

An ambitious and successful production of Sondheim’s classic musical

CMM Reporters
The Kad Theatre forest was alive to the sophisticated music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim last week, when students from the International School presented four performances of Into the Woods, inspired by Grimm Brothers’ fairy stories.

Cinderella with her three not-so-ugly sisters.

This witty musical, with a book by James Lapine, who originally directed it on Broadway in 1987, is considered a difficult work even for professional companies. For an amateur group to succeed as well as the school did was little short of remarkable. Great credit was reflected on everyone concerned - both back stage and front, especially the energetic cast and the director Ruthanne Pilton and technical director Suwanne Eubank.
The work, based around several of the Brothers’ stories including Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella, is linked by the addition of a new ‘story’ about a childless couple - a baker and his wife - who have to fulfill certain conditions to conceive the baby they so desperately want. Wisely, the production gave us only the first act of this long and increasingly dark work, so that it ends - seemingly complete - with the song Happy Ever After.

Someone’s in trouble, and it’s not the cow.
The work is inventive, witty and far from easy to sing - yet no-one in the sixteen-strong cast let the ensemble down, with several of the cast working especially valiantly to keep the momentum going The large Kad theatre stage was well used by the director and the simple but effective sets served the story well. Sadly, this theatre is underused in Chiang Mai but last year’s production by the school of Disney’s “High School Musical” and this follow up have been among the highlights of Chiang Mai’s entertainment and cultural life. Anyone who missed those productions should keep an eye open for the Chiang Mai International School’s future plans. They are in for a treat.

The students wow the audience with several dance performances.