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The Bill in Lemon is not a classic of magic for nothing. It is amazing and so thoroughly bewildering that laymen will be hard put to reconstruct its method. That explains why it appeals both to magicians and audiences.
The performance of the Bill in Lemon offers several opportunities to create laughter. In the hands of an excellent performer, it is not only perplexing and magical. It is also entertaining.
The ending is strong. But on the way to that ending—to that magic moment—lies a loooong set-up. It is so long it breaches most people’s attention span.
All this eats up time. If you perform the trick at a children’s birthday party, you will lose the children halfway through the routine, when nothing magical happens for eternity. For it’s allures and virtues, the Bill in Lemon trick is not child-friendly.
Then too, many magicians in the Philippines are not keen on this trick. To make it entertaining is beyond some performer’s ability. It requires preparation, which peeves those who are not handy with knives and glue. It also requires a sleight to switch bills or torn corners. It is not a difficult sleight to execute but hard enough to do smoothly and without detection. The crux of the trick is to convince the audience that only one bill—the borrowed one— is in play. Once the audience suspects otherwise, the trick whimpers towards its close.
Still the trick survives centuries of performances, a testament to its longevity. It has entertained our forefathers and continues to entertain modern audiences. God knows how many more generations to come it will entertain in the future.
The trick survives through many generations because it has a simple but potent plot. A bill is borrowed, marked for identification, vanished and then found inside a lemon.
Provided the setup and the build up are well done, the trick will always get a strong reaction at the end of the performance.
By then, I prefer to give back a wet bill. I love the little commotion and the look of amazement when the spectators seated near the owner of the bill inspect the signature, touch the bill (it’s wet!), smell it (it smells of lemon!) and taste it (it tastes like lemon!).
When you get such reaction, relish it. You are witnessing magic from your side of the stage.