Well this is it, Bills signature routine. Over these last few years I've heard alot of discussion about this package from different magicians, clowns, vents, ect. but I've never seen an actual in depth review about it. I've read the debates about "is it worth it", "it's not worth it", and all I kept hearing was basically "it's up to you to make the decision". Well I made the decision to purchase the package and took the plunge to see for myself how great this routine and package is and why it is $550 and you will know my answer to that later in this review. First off, I'm going to give the most objective non-biased review that I can regarding this "ready to go kit" vs. building one yourself. Here is what they say:
For the family show entertainer Chico the Mind Reader is an hilarious show-stopper and solid laughed packed routine that packs small and plays big. After thousands of performances spanning a decade and a half, Bill Abbott has worked out EVERYTHING, structurally, physically and in every conceivable venue and in front of every kind of audience. Bill Abbott has booked more shows from this one routine than any other in his repertoire. With this single purchase you will be adding 15+ minutes of solid entertainment to your show that can be learned in a short while, with everything you need to make it your own.
Bill Abbott's Chico Package is a one-of-a-kind professional compilation that includes:
All Necessary Props...
Soft Hat (toque)
Heavy Duty Chrome Staple Gun
Frying Pan (varying sizes)
White Cotton Handkerchief
3 Party Poppers
Customizable natural wood roll-down sign with complete details of how to trace, outline and finally paint your own puppet's name.*Use your own existing case/container or follow Bill's detailed suggestions and tips on choosing the perfect case and stand throughly detailed on the Instructional DVD.
Other Supplies Include
Fast Dry 2-Part Epoxy Glue
Set of Artist Brushes
Black Duct Tape
Custom Chico Monkey Puppet
Prepared Monkey Puppet with removable tail and miniature Fez hat.
A poster featuring 40 photos with all the necessary "behind-the-scenes" action with the script lines so working out the routine in rehearsal was that much easier.
Royalty-Free Music CD
Royalty-free intro, background and finale tracks on Compact Disc created just for the Chico routine.
An Exclusive Performance DVD
In this new Chico package there are two additional bonus performances of the Chico routine on the DVD exclusive to this release. One performance is at a kids day camp and the other at a high school retreat in front of 500 teenagers. This along with Chico's classic TV debut appearance and another killer performance at an adult comedy club all serve to illustrate how versatile the routine can be!
An Exclusive Instructional DVD
An exclusive DVD detailing all of the nuances of the set-up, prop management and a complete performance breakdown. The Master Puppet Workshop section of the DVD will show you all of the intricacies of bringing your puppet to life with the proper hand positioning, technique and the manipulation of a few simple props. Everything is taught in detail showing how to create a character so real and endearing, kids & adults alike will latch onto it like it's a live animal! Everything is covered to help you find and develop a character with your puppet, developing a bond between the puppet and the audience and how to use the Chico routine as a foundation for your very own creation. Bill's main objective is to help you to understand the routine inside and out, so you feel comfortable in performing it as soon as possible!
Full Photo-Illustrated Script
A complete script on PDF transcribed with over 50 photographs to make learning the routine that much easier.
Chico Text Template
The Mind Reader Text Template
The "Y" Letter Template
The Real Deal
What you are purchasing is a well-orchestrated and thoughtfully put-together professional package with built in laughs over years of refinement. Whether you adopt this routine as is, or inject your own personal touches, you will be receiving a truly perfect little piece of comedy, magic and theater that appeals to a wide age range. Bill Abbott made an appearance with Chico on the "This is Daniel Cook" TV Show. Since it first appeared the episode has been airing consistently 3 and 4 times weekly on several Canadian networks, and was nominated for a Canadian Gemini Award for Best Performance in a Children's Series! The show was recently been purchased by Disney so you will see Bill & Chico on a Disney Channel near you.
Here's what I have to say:
First lets start with the props:
Chico the Monkey Puppet-This puppet is beautiful. The fur looks fantastic, the detachable tail is great, and the fez just puts the finishing touch on this beautifuly made puppet.
However there is a problem. You can buy this exact same puppet from folkmanis for $22. You will have to cut off the tail and sew the hole up on it and the monkey and also sew in the velcro on both the monkey and the tail. You will also have to search online for the mini fez hat which will run about $4-8 dollars. Total price for the monkey $26-$30 and a little bit of sewing work. Bill used to sell this monkey by itself for $50.
mini Dust pan
Here is another problem with the kit. All of the items above are plastic and cheap. You can buy all of them in a toy store for no more then $50 and that is pushing it a little.
The 3 Party Poppers-Literally $3 at wal-mart for a set of 3.
White Cotten Hankerchief-Needs no explination.
Zippered banana-$10-15 at your favorite magic dealer.
Alphabet Cards-No more then $15 just by looking at the deck.
Customizable natural wood roll down sign-Here we have another problem. This sign is a pain in the rear to construct. Yes you do get the actual sign, but the tracing, combined with the paint you have to buy, plus making the actual attachment that attaches to the case it will take you hours to make. (8 hours for the paint to dry, 1 hour to cut the letters, another 30 minutes to trace the letters on the sign, and another 30 minutes to paint the actual letters). You have to be very careful with this whole process because you only get one of these signs and thats why it takes so long to construct (at least for me). Where to get this? I have no idea, but by the looks of it and how it was made, it can't be more then $20.
You also have to customize your hankerchief which again counting about 10 minutes cutting, plus another 20 drawing and drying adds more work for what you have to do.
Heavy Duty Crome Staple Gun-You can get this at office depot for $20.
Soft Hat (toque)-$6 to $8 at wal-mart.
Set of Artist Brushes-Looks like a cheap set of brushes, no more then $15 at best.
Black Duct tape (You don't get a full roll, not even half of a roll)
These need no explination. You can get them anywhere for $20 or less.
Now if you add all of this up on the high end it comes to approx. $200 ($196 to be exact).
The case-You don't get a case which is no big suprise since it states it in the advertisement. Bill gives you advice on where you can get your own case which is helpful or you can buy one at a magic shop for another $100+. But you HAVE TO GET A CASE. You can't do this routine without one. You need it to hold all of the props and you need it for the actual platform for the routine. So either you need to go by Bills tips on where to go and attach a eurika base yourself, or you can do what I did. I already had a pro suitcase table to hold all of my props in, but I STILL needed a case. So I ended up buying a regular leather briefcase (new) for $70 because I needed one that would stay open during the routine meaning the hinges needed to lock in place when opened so that it would stay opened. Then I bought hard velcro squares (sticky back) and stuck them on the bottom of the case. This way when I set the case on the pro suitcase table it wouldn't slide off on to the floor and stay in one place. This cost me an ADDITIONAL $80 after tax. This is another problem you'll have to deal with.
The Poster-This poster is very nice and very helpful. It gives you 41 photos of the routine in order and it serves as a nice cheat sheet when rehearsing.
The Script-The script is even more nice and helpful then the poster is. You get a nice 6 page script in color unlike the poster, with script lines below each photo which combined together makes the rehearsal very easy to master.
The Performance DVD-You get 4 different performances on this dvd. The routine never changes throughout but you will get to see and hear the reactions of all types of different people from kids to adults. This is nice because you get to see how versatile the routine is for a wide age range. The only thing that is different in the routine for the adult performances is a few adult lines but other then that the actual structure of the routine doesn't change.
The Music CD-You get approx a 17 minute long track of background music with an intro, background, and ending. This is not the same background music you heard on the kids dvd and frankly it is not very good to listen to while it's in the background of the routine. I haven't used this once.
The Instructional DVD-This dvd is great. Bill Abbott teaches you everything about the routine possible. First Bill goes over all of the props provided in the package. Second he goes over the management of the props and where they go in your case (you don't have to put the props in this way, this is just Bills personal preverance). Third he goes over the routine and you get a clear view behind the case so you can see every prop being brought out at the appropriate times. It's a complete routine walkthrough from behind the case. Then you get the master puppet workshop. In it, Bill talks about the hand positioning and where your fingers should be to handle Chico. He also gives you advice on how to handle a few props during the routine (Cards, broom and dust pan, ect. but not all of them, only a few). He first shows you with his bare hand, then shows you with the puppet, so you get a clear understanding of how to manipulate Chico.
The Templates and script can all be found on the instructional dvd when placed into your computer.
So what have we learned so far? The actual props for this kit is NOT worth $550 plus you STILL have to do some work with the pain in the rear sign along with the hanky AND you STILL don't have all the props needed (still need the case). The actual props including the Monkey you can hunt down for $200, plus the case for $100 and have this whole routine prop wise for around $300. So if you want to save money, hunt down the props yourself and you can save anywhere from $200 to $250. However, you won't get the updated routine. In this updated routine there is a gag with a party popper, and approx 2-3 more new gags placed throughout and all of them add alot of value to the routine overall vs. the routine on his kids dvd. Plus the poster and script IS very helpful when rehearsing vs watching the performance in the kids dvd over and over again. With those items provided, you can learn this routine rather quickly so that is a plus. So where did the other $250 go? It can't be the 2 dvd's plus the CD can it? Those 3 items aren't worth $250 are they? So what am I missing? Where did my money go?
Hear is my conclusion:
This is why this package is worth $650 ($550 + $100 for the case), and it is the routine itself. The actual 15+ minute routine is the reason why this is so much. When I got this I didn't use this right away, I practiced long and hard to make it look just as good as Bills and it took me a good month, not because I was slow, but because I wanted to make sure this was perfect. Afterall, I paid alot of money for it and it diserved the extra attention to detail. And the first time I performed it, the kids were cracking up, they just could not stop laughing. I could've done the whole 45 minute show with just chico and they would've loved it. That's how much fun they had during the routine. Once I saw first hand the impact that this had on kids I knew immediately why the price tag was so high and it's because this routine is a winner right out of the box. I have had this for over 3 months now and it has played well for every age group that I've performed it for. Now this hasn't happened everytime, but most of the time after the show the parents or the client have said they liked Chico the best. When I tested this out on my 9 month old and 10 year old daughters I got 2 same reactions from 2 different parts of the routine. My 9 month old would laugh everytime Chico would talk in my ear, and my 10 year old laughed the loudest when Chico looked at her and nodded his head.
After that, I just knew this was going to be a hit. Now after knowing how strong this is I make sure I use this in every show I perform whether it's for kids or adults. This is now my finale for my kids show, because I really can't think of anything to top it. Don't judge this package out of the box because like I said, the actual props themselves are not close to $550 so don't think that you got ripped off. The real value is in the routine. This routine is worth all of the work, all of the props, all of the extra props (case), all of your time spent on it, and every penny of that $550. You have a complete act by itself for 15 minutes, now what is that worth to you? In my opinion if it makes you money in the long run, it is worth every penny you invest now. This is entertainment at its core and that is what people pay to see, and this routine gives them that. Now is this package worth $550 vs. hunting down everything yourself and saving a few bucks? Well here's how I was looking at that because I debated for so long if I should do just that before I went ahead and bought this.
The complete package offers the following:
*Saves you time in searching
*Gives you an updated routine that is more valuable
*Allows you to easily rehearse the routine
*It is not cheap
Getting Everything yourself offers the following:
*You save money
*You spend alot more time Searching for the props
*You don't get the updated routine
*You do as much work preparing for the routine (you still have to make the sign, and hanky)
*You get no Script or Poster for easy rehearsal
*You get no Templates to help you trace for your sign so it has the chance of not looking right and the same with your hanky.
If you're still on the fence, here's another way of looking at it. Say you buy this package and the table/case for $650 so now you're in the red for this year financially. Now for every show you do after that with Chico if the parents are booking you again for next year because of him, then every year after that is pure profit and Chico by itself is making you money. I've only had Chico for a few months, but I can tell you right now that the kids absolutely LOVE him. And since the kids love him so much, the parents feel the same way because I entertained their child so much. It's a win-win.
Here's one last way of looking at buying Chico if you're still undecided. Don't think about the actual price of $650, but think about how many shows you would have to do in order to make up that $650. And with this routine think about how many more shows you will get because of Chico therefor making the process of getting the money back in shows that much easier.
So to answer the age old question, is it worth it?
And the answer is an absolute YES.
Last edited by dbrandmeyer on Fri May 27, 2011 1:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.