Christmas in Benidorm, Spain
Celebration at the Palace!
26th December 2006
Reviewed by Mike Danata
It's been a few years since I last went to Benidorm for a holiday, so I did wonder as to how much it may have changed. I remembered it basically being split into two parts, those parts being the "Old Town" and "The New Town". I also remembered the Old Town, suddenly coming "Alive" at around 4-5pm, one minute the streets were empty and the next they would be crammed with people! You could never quite work out where they had all come from, so suddenly, it seemed!
I also remembered an area in the newer part of town, being full of bars and clubs, with entertainment everywhere, mostly with FREE admission! Indeed a few years ago I had actually worked one of the entertainment rooms there myself!
Well this time I wasn't coming to work, I was coming for a break after a very busy year in the Studio.
I had already been aware that there was a couple of magicians appearing in the show "Celebration" at the Benidorm Palace (I heard that they were going to make a full size jet appear in the show!) so needless to say I had already booked in advance for that one! But would there be any other magicians working in Benidorm this Christmas? I wondered as I departed from my local airport.........
Arriving in Benidorm on Christmas Eve to basically good weather (just a bit windy the first day), though the sunshine was out! The weather actually got better with every new day, temperatures every day were in the mid to late 60's, PERFECT!
Having seen a Fantastic Abba tribute act in one of the bars on Christmas night, and not being able to find any magicians appearing anywhere, I was looking forward to Boxing day, this was the "Big Night" at the "Benidorm Palace"........
I had visited the Palace on a couple of previous occasions, the first time many years ago, probably when it hadn't long been opened. I seem to remember its location being on what appeared to be a sort of main road, in the middle of nowhere, with hardly anything near, it wasn't even that easy to find! Well this time it was very easy to find, sign posts pointing to "The Palace" absolutely everywhere! The area now is very built up around it, with shops, bars, and hotels, a very busy area now probably due to the location of the Palace!
I was going to get a taxi, but decided to walk, as it was a pleasant evening, and only a twenty minute walk away.
I had picked up my tickets from the box office the day before, so didn't have to queue for the tickets. Despite arriving a good half hour before the doors were due to open, and not having to queue for the tickets, there was still a very long queue to join, to gain entry!
Standing in the throng of people was quite exciting in itself, watching taxis arrive with more people, along with big coaches arriving, everyone dressed to the nines! The huge car park gradually filling up as well, a real "buzz" filled the air outside the huge building, with its flashing neon signs, that is the "Palace".
Once the doors were opened, you walk along a long foyer, down some stairs, have your photo taken, and then you are seated, in this big but somehow still intimate room.
Everything is so perfectly organised from start to finish. The five course dinner was delicious (the best and most tender fillet steak I've EVER tasted!) and the service impeccable!
Everyone gets a good view of the stage, and during the five course meal a trio was playing some very nice pre show music.
I also noticed a couple of close-up magicians performing magic at the tables, to many oohs and aahs from the onlookers. At one point I saw a little boy drag one of the magicians away from the table he was working, so that he could have him at HIS table!! Such was the popularity of the magic!! The magicians names I later discovered were Martin Compton Holgate and Andy Rugman, together known as "Double Deception". They were later to also appear in the show.....
Suddenly I looked at the stage again whilst eating, and the trio had changed into a quintet (more magic!) at 9.20 they disappeared from where they came. Fifteen minutes later we had a band joined by two singers. At 10.15 the curtains closed on the band. The lights dimmed and smoke began to fill the room, the show was about to begin......
Smoke and lasers filled the air, suddenly the room appeared to be full with cast members dressed in black hooded robes clutching candles, (this reminded me of the Siegfried & Roy show in Vegas, when the dancers appear dressed in robes in the audience). These robed people dispersed, a male dancer then performed a short flamenco solo. The music then segued into Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, and suddenly the stage was filled with over thirty dancers in stunning costumes, performing flamenco to what must be one of the most dramatic pieces ever written! It really was absolutely stunning.
In between the dancing, the show was interspersed with many Variety acts of the visual kind, no language problems with any of these acts!
First there were comedy acrobats, "Price & Mcoy" from Australia, they have worked all over the world including the famous Moulin Rouge. Top professionals and it showed!
A trapeze artiste by the name of Oliverira from Portugal was quite spectacular, and had the audience on the edge of their seats!
A visual comedian also from Portugal called Tito Lester, who has worked extensively in Germany, and top television shows in Europe. His act consisted of a "Film Sketch" where members of the audience became the actors, being primed by him, but with hilarious results! An object lesson in audience management, and hilariously funny!
Incidentally I was still eating at 10.40! (The service wasn't slow, there was just so many courses!!)
Now it's time for "Double Deception" the two young Magicians.....
The moment they bounced on the stage, they had a big cheer from the audience! (Probably due to the fact that they had already made their mark performing the close-up magic at the tables! Their act was basically a very fast moving bird act with canes, fire and candles thrown in for good measure! Some VERY slick bird productions, and cage productions, with cages that just seemed to get bigger with each production! They worked perfectly together, aiding in all the misdirection. Doves were produced, changing into a girl! Culminating in the production of a giant Parrot, which I have to admit I have no idea where it came from, and I call myself a magician!! It really was a very slick performance, but no appearing Jet! A thoroughly enjoyable act though.
The second half of the show, and there were more fantastic dance routines, with the most incredible outfits, you'd have to go to Vegas to see a show of this calibre!
Suddenly the music changed to Frank Sinatra singing "Come Fly With Me" I thought to myself "This must be the appearing Jet Illusion" bearing in mind that I was now anticipating a plane appearing, so I was ahead of the game. I did feel cheated, because I honestly can't remember what happened, and I'm not totally sure what I was meant to think I saw! What I did see was a spotlight swing onto a staircase on the left hand side of the stage, (remember that this stage is huge, I believe it's one of the widest stages in the world). The audiences eyes would have followed the spotlight, two young guys dressed in pilot uniforms, are seen to be walking down the steps, they walk centre stage, and the audience realises that there is a jet on the stage. Somehow in my opinion something was wrong with the staging, because I had no idea if the stage was actually empty prior to it appearing! No attempt was made to prove "nothing there". I think the stage might have been blacked out, but can't remember. For all I knew, (and the rest of the audience) a black curtain could have been in front of it, and merely went up as we watched the magicians walk down the steps. The actual stage lights could have blacked out whilst we were watching them walk down the steps, so I'm not sure where the actual magic came into it. The audience didn't really react, because of the confusion, as to what we were meant to see, we all felt that we had missed something. I suppose it was akin to a magician pulling tons of items out of an empty box, but if the audience were not shown the box EMPTY they wouldn't see the magic, the magic would be lost. I did feel disappointed at this. it seemed a huge expense (I'm guessing it would have cost a fortune) for very little effect. I did enjoy their main act though!
The finale of the show was the most spectacular. The show was called "Celebration" so all the showgirls outfits represented bottles of champagne, even down to the CORK headdresses! With water fountains in the middle of the stage, symbolising the flowing champagne, you'd have to be there to fully appreciate it!
I understand that the outfits for one show costs around 280,000 euros (approx £183,000!) to make, then you need to maintain them every week, the show changes every year (this information is courtesy of the Palace).
I remember a few years ago, I sneaked around the back of the building, and through an open door saw row upon row of very elaborate dresses suspended by ropes to the roof of the building, to prevent creasing!
Many famous people have appeared at the palace over the years including Omar Pasha (also appearing at the Blackpool convention this year) Boney M, The Ramping Brothers (now appearing in Cirque du Soleil), and illusionists "The Twins".
There are 33 dancers in the show, six of them currently are English! There are 10 people behind the stage every night, and four technicians for lights, lasers and sound. The room holds 1,500 people seated!
It's a brilliant night out, you could almost be on a cruise ship, because of the general ambience of the place.
Who needs Las Vegas when Southern Spain has the BENIDORM PALACE!
© Mike Danata, January 2007 www.mikedanatasmagicstudio.co.uk