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Theatre / EFX

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EFX was a show that opened in 1995 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and ran until 2003. Originally starring Michael Crawford, the show changed headliners a total of four times, seeing such stars as David Cassidy, Tommy Tune and Rick Springfield fill the lead role.

Set in the magical world of EFX, the EFX Master (or headliner for subsequent versions of the show) takes us on a journey through space and time featuring Merlin, P. T. Barnum, Harry Houdini and H. G. Wells. Packed full of special effects, acrobatics and even two large animatronic dragons, EFX, at the time of its opening, was the most expensive theatrical production ever designed, costing 40 million dollars to produce.

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    All headliners (1995-2003) 
  • Adaptational Badass: H.G. Wells goes from a famed science fiction writer to an action hero as he battles Morlocks to save a slave girl and his time machine. Depending on the star of the show, the amount of stunts Wells actually performed varied.
  • Animorphism: Morgana turns into a dragon to battle Merlin. Unfortunately for her, Merlin is able to do the same thing and ultimately win the fight.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: P. T. Barnum is actually a future incarnation of himself, who runs an intergalactic circus starring extraterrestrial people and animals. The show also plays upon the idea that H. G. Wells's Time Traveler character is actually Wells himself.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In the final act H. G. Wells instructs the audience to put on their 3D glasses and later even recommends taking his rescued companion to Vegas to see EFX.
    H.G. Wells (Tommy Tune): "Trust me on this ma'am, this is one of the best parts of the show. You will not see unless you put on your shades!"
  • Cool Starship: P. T. Barnum’s enormous spaceship which is equipped with a ton of searchlights, its own scrolling LED display and elevator.
  • Damsel in Distress: The slave girl captured by Morlocks in the Wells segment.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The show's title, an abbreviation derived from the film industry, that makes the show's true star (according to early press releases) incredibly clear.
  • Excuse Plot: Written and re-written around the strengths and talents of its current star. Also a means of justifying giant setpieces and theatrical effects.
  • Final Love Duet: The song “Tonight” as sung by Harry Houdini and his wife, Bess. Also counts as Distant Duet, seeing as he’s really a spirit brought back through a séance held by Bess.
  • Flying Saucer: The headliner rides a similar contraption in the opening number.
  • Gospel Revival Number: The second half of "Let it Shine".
  • Humanoid Aliens: The Intergalactic Circus of Wonders.
  • Humanshifting: The headliner appears throughout the show in the forms of Merlin (or King Arthur), P. T. Barnum, Harry Houdini and H. G. Wells.
  • I Am the Noun: The EFX Master's opening monologue as a large projected face.
    EFX Master (Michael Crawford): "Master of celestial light, ruler of past, present and future, guardians of wonder and joy, out of the shadows APPEAR!"
  • Improvised Weapon: The Morlock battle in the final segment is filled with these.
  • In Medias Res: The actual opening number comes after a prelude by the EFX Master introducing the four lower Masters, each with their own musical theme. Also, the Tommy Tune version had three songs before the flying saucer even appeared.
  • Large Ham: The Master of Laughter, Michael Crawford's Barnum and the pre-show technician.
  • Leitmotif: Each of the four Masters gets to introduce their respective act to the tune of the opening theme. Also, this operatic theme which appeared in both the opening and finale of Michael Crawford's version of the show.
  • Man in White: Michael Crawford's EFX Master, The Master of Laughter and Tommy Tune's white tuxedo.
  • No Fourth Wall: Performers during the prologue and Barnum segments are constantly running in and out of the audience.
  • Retool: Happened four times over the eight years the show ran.
    • Michael Crawford left the show in 1996 (due injuries sustained while performing his own stunts), and the show saw Barnum’s stand-up act replaced by a trapeze troupe.
    • David Cassidy became the star the same year, adding a more fleshed out story (involving Cassidy as a busboy searching for his estranged girlfriend) and reducing the character of the EFX Master to a holographic head. Additionally, the song “Tonight” was cut, "Intergalactic Circus of Wonders" was re-written and “Counting up to Twenty” and the finale were replaced by "River in Time" and "Let it Shine", respectively.
    • After Cassidy left in 1998, Tommy Tune joined the cast and “Tonight” was re-inserted.
    • When Rick Springfield became the last headliner, the show was re-named to “EFX Alive!” and cut the four Masters out entirely.
  • Rule of Cool: What exactly do dragons, a trapeze troupe and a giant head have in common? Everything in the name of trying to outdo every other show on the Las Vegas Strip.
  • Pantomime Animal: Exaggerated with the large, long-legged horse-like creature during the Barnum act, played by a performer on stilts.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Musical contributions by Michael Crawford and further songs added by David Cassidy, Rick Springfield and Andrew Gold of 10cc.
  • Scenery Porn: A moving spaceship, a large mountain and a multi-story underground lair are just some of the large sets featured in the show.
  • Shout-Out: Dorothy's house and an MGM lion token spin past the camera during the H.G. Wells 3D film note 
  • Space Clothes: The “Intergalactic Circus of Wonder” ensemble is all dressed in silver.
  • Spontaneous Choreography: All acts except Houdini have this:
    • The Merlin act begins with a ballet number during which leaves grow on trees and a waterfall magically appears
    • The Barnum act has a cosmic Irish jig (following a tap number in the Tommy Tune version of the show).
    • The H.G. Wells act features a tribal stick number performed by the captured slaves.
  • The Centerpiece Spectacular: The fire-breathing animatronic dragons featured in the Merlin segment became the show's signature moment, even going as far as to be depicted in merchandise such as watches.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Counting Up to Twenty"/"River in Time" (for post-Crawford versions), presented as a 3-D film as H. G. Wells travels into the future.
  • The Master: Subverted as the EFX Master appears to be very benevolent and even awards a chance at redemption to David Cassidy's character.
  • The '90s: A tamer, fantasy-driven Las Vegas spectacle created at a time when Vegas was trying to appeal to families.
  • The Artifact: Various large props, ranging from the holographic head to a giant hand, all of which were kept through various rewrites because MGM wasn't about to waste 40 million dollars.
  • Time Machine: After H. G. Wells's short monologue about the unexpected success of his novel "The Time Machine", it is revealed that he really invented one, which he uses to travel ahead into the 20th century.
  • Time Travel
  • Time Travel Escape: The slave girl during the finale of the H. G. Wells act, who kisses Wells to convince him to take her with him back into the past.
  • Title Theme Tune: The opening song.
    Michael Crawford version (1995-96) 
  • Award-Bait Song: "Counting Up To Twenty"
  • Concepts Are Cheap: A celebration of imagination is the common motif in this version of the show, further driven home by "Open Your Eyes".
  • Double Entendre: Barnum's stand-up act is filled with these.
  • Face on the Cover: Advertising for the original version of the show, which featured the giant, unraveling head of Michael Crawford on signs, posters, the soundtrack cover and even casino tokens.
  • Human Cannonball: The end of P.T. Barnum's stand-up act... however, nothing goes as planned as the cannon is pointed at the stage and explodes with Barnum inside of it.
  • Repulsive Ringmaster: Barnum; a short-tempered showman who constantly silences his co-stars and even chases after his assistant for screwing up his human cannonball stunt.
  • Sphere of Power: The EFX Master stands on one during the finale.
  • Shout-Out: Two major ones happen during P. T. Barnum's standup act.
    • Barnum explains that future Las Vegas disappeared when its entire population was eaten by over-bred white tigers, including several magicians (a dig at the then-popular Siegfried and Roy).
    • Barnum's pet bird Muffy quips "Slowwwly, geeennntly..." while he explains his "evade the blade" magic cabinet.

    David Cassidy version (1996-99) 

    Tommy Tune version (1999-00) 
  • All Just a Dream: The recurring motif of the entire show, with Tommy in pajamas atop the opening flying saucer and a young Tommy carrying a pillow in the Merlin segment.
  • Fountain of Youth: Tommy Tune is turned into a child version of himself before the Merlin act and becomes King Arthur. This is deconstructed however, as the adult Tommy plays Merlin.
  • Self-Deprecation: Playing into the press surrounding the notorious intense physical nature of the show, the commercial for Tommy Tune's version of the show invites audiences to see him as the star while they still can...

    Rick Springfield version (2000-03) 

Example of: