BWW Review: Stunning THE ILLUSIONISTS LIVE FROM BROADWAY at The Fox Theatre
Magicians have always found a home on stage, whether it was during vaudeville's heyday or on Broadway, and THE ILLUSIONISTS is proof that this association is still going strong (of course, the art of magic goes back many centuries, long before either existed). I have to confess that I've never actually seen any magician perform live. Most of my experience has been limited to watching various acts perform on television over the years. But, when you watch them on TV the more skeptical viewer is always aware that even though a particular stunt may seem phenomenal, there's that sense that maybe this was edited or achieved through camera trickery. That's not necessarily a fair assumption, but it's one I think a lot of people share. After having witnessed THE ILLUSIONISTS in person I find myself at a loss to explain how most of their illusions were created. And that's what makes this show so amazing. Their recent performance at the Fox Theatre was a truly wondrous and amusing experience that had me pondering over and over afterwards: "Just how did they do that?"
Seven acts take the stage in this show, and it's worth noting that not all of the acts are truly illusions. For example, Andrew Basso (The Escapologist) is a tribute to Harry Houdini, and features Basso attempting the master's ability to escape from a tank of water while handcuffed and suspended upside down while holding his breath. A great way to end the first act of this show, but a choice that may have been better served as the climax of the entire show. Jonathan Goodwin (The Daredevil) also is an unorthodox choice since his act has him using a blindfold and a carefully aimed crossbow to thrill the spectators.
Jeff Hobson (The Trickster) acts as a funny and flamboyant host for the proceedings, and his contribution to the show is immeasurable. An Ha Lim (The Manipulator) takes the tradition of card tricks to a new high with the unbelievable skill he displays while making playing cards appear repeatedly out of thin air. Kevin James (The Inventor) is an amiable presence who can do more with a single piece of paper than you can possibly imagine. Dan Sperry (The Anti-Conjuror) is a blast, decked out in clothes and makeup that seem plucked from the closet of Marilyn Manson. His work with dental floss, a breath mint, and later a quarter, are stunning bits that are borderline gross, but never offensive. However, the one act that truly fascinated me was that of Colin Cloud (The Deductionist). I have an idea on how one particular bit that utilized the program for the show was achieved, but I cannot comprehend how some of the information he gleaned from audience members was accomplished.
Director/Creative Producer Neil Dorward has crafted an exciting and entertaining show that acts as a showcase for each of these performers. I think the show loses steam in the second act, and the music (Evan Jolly) is pumped up to a level that's distracting (perhaps, on purpose), but overall the production is well conceived. Jared A. Sayeg and Paul Smith provide the glitzy lighting design, which acts to focus our attention, and Angela Aaron's costume designs are a fitting complement to this modern take on magic.
THE ILLUSIONISTS LIVE FROM BROADWAY is well worth your time, and kids and adults will find plenty to enjoy.