Quick Change

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Quick Change - the art of changing a costume at lightning speed.

TRANSFORMATION | | Quick-Change Transformation

The illusion of costume change is based on the presumption of the audience that the artist gets rid of one set of clothes in order to put on another set in a second. The artist merely holds up a new costume to himself and seconds later has dressed in it. Women not only become jealous, but the men also? Seen like this, Quick Change is for many a dream come true.

The art of Quick Change is several hundred years old and reaches back as far as the 15th century. The Japanese kabuki theater started with crude performances by a shrine dancer Okuni in the year 1603, although the use of Quick Change was most probably not added until after 1629 when women were banned from performing kabuki.

The old Fregoli style

1880 - 1897: Fregoli was the greatest quick-change artist of his day. He was famous for his extraordinary ability in impersonations and his quickness in exchanging roles- so much so that while he was performing in London in the 1890s unkind rumours spread that there was more than one Fregoli. - read more about him in Wikipedia
True? Fregoli made the costume and hairpiece changes out of view of the audience in three seconds with the help of several assistants. The most difficult aspect of his performance and style was the synchronization of gesture and voice. The rumors of Fregoli -the quickest Costumechanger- are rumors*. In fact, a similary dressed assistant had taken his place so that Fregoli could change costumes. He was very popular like Houdini - he is the forefather of Quick Change (but not the first). *Quote: "Meta-Morphing" by Vivian Sobchack

1909 - 1916: Mlle. Fregolia appears to be the first popular woman to perform Quick Change with prepared costumes ( Fatima Miris was considered the most important at the time, but Mlle. Fregolia, of French origin far outshone her performances). In a short two part act totaling fifteen minutes, Mlle. Fregolia played the part of fifteen characters (men and women) with an incredible forty costume changes. The exact number of characters varies from different reports 12 characters and forty costumes, to 20 characters with 100 costumes! This is most probably due to the fact that at every curtain call she also would change costume everything right up to the stockings! Mlle. was also considered a great actress during these playlettes “The Lightning Waiter“ and “Husband's Return“. Skeptics were unable to believe that only one woman was playing all the parts, and so a reward of $1,000 dollars was offered to anyone who could prove otherwise. In 1916 Mlle. Fregolia also appeared in two short silent films made in Germany “Was ein Weib vermag“ - “As well as a broad is able“ and “Fregolia“. Copies of bill boards and newspaper reports helped us with this research.

Quick Change was very popular in the 20th century right up until the twenties. After the outbreak of cinema this art fell silent. Read more in the fantastic book from Vivian Sobchack – „Meta-Morphing“. Quick Change was sporadically performed by magicians; in Japanese Kabuki heatre it continued to be performed unseen by our Western world.

The Russian style

Many Russian artists brought Quick Change back to the circus in the middle of last century. It was very popular but the quality of costumes are not very high. Originally this kinds of acts was startet by the Russian couple Sudarchikovi ant at that time a really sensation. The couple changes at first russian artists a high fashion collection. Pictured in the right side: Liubov and Anatoli Sudarchikovi (special thank for photo to Bolshoi Circus) Their first TV appearance was 1988. In 1995 they won the silver clown in Monaco.
The original Sudarchikovi Act starts 1969:
He was dressed in black tailcoat, she is in a long gown. She goes in a tube and changes in one second to a cha-cha-cha-dress. Then she performs a few glove color changes. She steps into a screen from the right side to the left and now has on a latin dress. After this follows a costume change in a fringed hulahoop. In a sub trunk illusion he changes his dress to a white tailcoat. She changes her dress twice in a cape of silk to a black and then to a red dress. Finally she changes her red dress in silver confetti to a white bridal gown.

The original Sudarchikovi Snowstorm effect.

Another Dynasty is Monastyrsky. Tatjana is third generation to perform her art of quick-change. Her transformation with an umbrella was created by her grandfather Vladimir Monastyrsky in 1963. The very first time it was shown in the circus, with her partner Angelina Monastyrskaya.

Today the transformation has become an art of entertainment in its own right. Several artistes have created their own performances to show this fascinating art of Quick Change. Many of them are unique and have completely different performance styles and effects (including the covers used during the changes).

A complete Quick Change act is one of the most expensive and most impressive illusion effects that there is. There is a great difference between performing a single or a couple of Quick Changes in his program, than a complete Quick Change act. The actors have to live for a complete Quick Change act. If a Quick Change needs weeks sometimes even months for the development of a single prepared item of clothing, how long does one need then for a complete Quick Change act? In the "supreme discipline" that lies in the multiple costume change, which without a doubt the many Russian artists dominate, lies the inherited experience of generations.

The revival of Fregoli style

The Italian Arturo Brachetti made Quick Change popular once again. He is is one of the more classic followers of Fregoli's style. His extensive career covers a wide artistic range of versatilty, acting, magic, chapeaugraphy and shadowgraphy. His professional career began in 1978 in France at the parisian cabaret, Paradis Latin. With his one-man-show "The Man With a Thousand Faces" which featured more than 80 transformations, he won the Moliere Award in Paris (equivalent to the Broadway Tony Award) and then the Olivier Award in Canada. After 700 sold-out performances in Paris the show went on a world tour. In Christmas 2004 he was invited to perform in the Palais de L'Elisée in Paris in the presence of President Chirac and his 600 guests. In the Guinness Book of Records 2006 Brachetti is described the fastest quick change artist in the world. In 2006 Brachetti's show reached the proportion of a big musical production with over 1000 performances completed and in excess of 1.000.000 million tickets sold worldwide.

The magic style

In the nineties last century some magicians spiced up their acts with a costume change. In a boom of "price winning magic acts" in some magic competitions the single Quick Change worldwide has been changed to a magic trick. The Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques -FISM™- the world's leading magic societies consists of over 60 clubs, both national and international, as well as national Federations which represent nearly 50 000 Magicians from 32 countries. At the FISM World Championships more than 100 of the best magicians have been competing every third year since 1948. At the last FISM 2006 two dozen magicians performed costume changes as a magic trick.

What is a Quick-Change Artist?

Of course - Quick-Change is pure magic! But the history of Quick Change does not have magic roots. Is every Quick Change performer now a magician? Is every Magician now a Quick-Change artist? The Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques -FISM™- cut magic in the following categories:

Manipulation | General Magic | Parlour Magic | Stage Illusions | Comedy Magic | Card Magic | Micro Magic | Mental Magic

Is a Quick-Change artist an Illusionist? The art of Quick Change reaches back as far as the 15th century. The art itself is in fact older however than many branches of magic.

The art of Quick-Change can be divided into three categories:

The old Fregoli style - the art of changing the character + sex (metamorphoses)
The Russian style - the art of changing clothes (ie. dressing and undressing)
The magic style - the art of changing the color of a magician's dress

The art of Transformation has three categories

The Quick-Change - the art of changing the costume or/and character
The Chapeaugraphy - the art of changing character with a single hat
The Shadowgraphy - the art of forming shilouettes with hands on a blank screen

Another famous Quick change artist is the Venetian Ennio Marchetto, who has created his own style of quick changes and impersonations. All his costumes, wigs and props are bi-dimensional and made out of cardboard and paper. His costumes transform in front of your eyes like origami folding. Also called The Living Cartoon, Ennio enjoys a world wide success since his first appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1989.


Ugo Biondi
Farima Miris (Fregolia)
Charles T. Aldrich
George LaFollette
Kawezkij, Valentin (first Russian 1909)
T. Brok
Berkovich Ljudmilla Michailowna
V. Serbinoi
Cabaret Balaganchik (Petrograd)
Voronin brothers
Arkadii Isaackovich
I. Raikin

* we need help to accomplish this list. If you know somethinks contact us. Thank you.

Thanks to Hans Christian Solka (GER) for research and translation from Russian