BWW Review: Audience Captivated by THE ILLUSIONISTS - LIVE FROM BROADWAY, at Aronoff Center Cincinnati

BWW Review: Audience Captivated by THE ILLUSIONISTS - LIVE FROM BROADWAY, at Aronoff Center Cincinnati

Last night, the audience at Cincinnati's Aronoff Center for the Arts shared in a "magical" experience.

Full of bombast, flashing lights, music, and spectacle, The Illusionists - Live From Broadway, provides eye-popping feats performed by seven different magicians. Each magician had a different skill and a different moniker to go with it.

"The Trickster," Jeff Hobson, acts as the show's emcee. Part comedian and part magician, he performs card tricks and other sleight-of-hand bits with the help of randomly selected audience members. It was a hoot to watch the members of the audience try to avoid eye contact, and potential embarrassment in front of almost 2000 people. Hobson seems to have a knack for choosing the perfect victim. He plays with them like a cat plays with a mouse. But using charm and witty self-deprecation, rather than claws, Hobson is gentle with his prey, endearing them to the crowd.

The other illusionists that play a major role in the show include Colin Cloud ("The Deductionist"), Dan Sperry ("The Anti-Conjuror"), and Kevin James ("The Inventor"). Cloud deduces personal information about volunteers, such as their occupations and pets' names. Sperry is a grotesque showman, seeming to embed dental floss in his neck at one point and to cut a quarter from under his skin during another moment. James performs a more traditional brand of stage magic, sawing assistants in half and animating various objects (including a severed hand!) All were skilled showmen and held the audience captive.

Andrew Basso ("The Escapologist") and Jonathan Goodwin ("The Daredevil") perform only one feat each, Basso recreating Houdini's Water Torture Cell escape and Goodwin shooting his crossbow blindfolded at his assistant. An Ha Lim ("The Manipulator") does a long trick during which he pulls a seemingly infinite number of cards from thin air. The trick is as graceful as a dance and set to dramatic music.

One cranky feminist complaint: With all the women magician's assistants there are in the world, you'd think that there would be at least one woman master illusionist who could be included-but that's not the case with this show, at least. James made a nod to this by selecting a little girl as a volunteer and giving her an Illusionists magic kit because they "need more female magicians."

Though there were a few times when it was possible to figure out how the illusions worked, that's part of the fun of going to a magic show. With all the cameras (for close-ups of the illusions), lights, and booming music, the overall effect is something like being a member of a studio audience at a televised magic special. The fast pace and variety keeps your attention (and the attention of the many kids that were there with parents) throughout the performance.

THE ILLUSIONISTS - LIVE FROM BROADWAY runs at the Aronoff Center for the Arts through Sunday, March 26th. Go here for tickets and info.

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