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BWW Review: iLUMINATE Does Much More Than Just Light Up

BWW Review: iLUMINATE Does Much More Than Just Light Up

Theatre 80 St. Marks on Manhattan's lower east side would seem the most unlikely venue for the shiny new production of iLuminate, now playing through September 4th. You would think that a show that fuses dance and first-rate technology belongs in a trendy state-of-the-art facility, not the former home to a speakeasy of the prohibition era. But you would be wrong-because it works very effectively.

The theatre, which still operates the original speakeasy, retains the character and old-school charm of days gone by. The juxtaposition between this former gem of a showplace and the sheer inventiveness and technology, which is iLuminate, is particularly enchanting. It reminded me of my trips to the amusement park as a kid. Taking a ride through the motorized fun house, strapped into a cart as I was transported through the dark along the rickety tracks. Every sharp turn of a corner brought the wonderment of a scary apparition or a whimsical character.

In iLuminate you're transported on that same sort of thrill seeking yet mind-boggling ride. The simple story about a young artist and his adventures with a magical paintbrush is told through an array of diverse and uniquely crafted dance numbers, all of which are performed by dancers-in-the-dark wearing jumpsuits wired up to LED lights. These lights are programmed to change color, change scenery, and even change characters within a millisecond. It's as if your favorite comic book or video game has come to life before your eyes.

iLuminate is the brainchild of founder, Miral Kotb, whose background as a dancer and software engineer led her to develop this groundbreaking marriage between art and technology. The show is full of astounding visuals and artistic wit. Though this was my first introduction to iLuminate, Kotb's creation was featured on "America's Got Talent," where it took third place, and also enjoyed two Off-Broadway runs.

BWW Review: iLUMINATE Does Much More Than Just Light Up

The choreography may not be anything you haven't seen before; it's the way these artists meticulously incorporate the lighting to accent the movement and create such stunning stage pictures that make this work unique. During a production number the costumes magically change on cue, turning the principal characters into a corps de ballet, or frequently a corps de hip-hop. The energetic nine-member troupe is full of expert dancers who dance full-throttle the entire show. Their unified razor-sharp work is worthy of the precision of the Radio City Rockettes. You don't necessarily have to have a multi-million dollar budget to take an audience on a visual joyride.

One has to appreciate that these dancers are performing in the dark, wearing what appear to be electronic hockey masks. I imagine their peripheral vision is slightly impaired yet they never miss a beat or a formation. That, coupled with how they dance with the sheer weight of both mask and costumes, is pretty astonishing.

In the second act of the show Kotb smartly utilizes audience participation. Since the show is practically designed as a video game, there was no shortage of children raising their hands to be selected for the interactive experience. It's a simple conceit, but it works perfectly, and this hook transports the enthusiastic crowd into the spectacular finale. I'd rather not give away any spoilers here-it's something too cool to disclose.

BWW Review: iLUMINATE Does Much More Than Just Light Up

The catchy music in iLuminate ranges from original material to pop standards. Included in the first act is a great number to Michal Jackson's "Billie Jean" that sizzles with polish, and the show closes appropriately with "Glad You Came" by The Wanted.

There's something for all ages in this entertaining and colorful production of iLuminate. Children who are already expert in video games will have plenty of Ooo and Ahh moments, while older adults will marvel at how far technology has evolved since the days of drawing stick figures on their Etch-A- Sketch pads.


Directed by Miral Kotb. The cast includes Lisa "LBoogie" Bauford, Bryan Longchamp, Shane Carrigan, Charles Way, Alessandra Marconi, Lucia Daisog, Simon Mendoza, Matthew Dobbins, Omar Pride, Aubree Brown and David Terry.

Tickets for iLuminate are priced at $69 and may be purchased through 811-4111. For additional information please visit the website at

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From This Author Bob Rizzo

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