BWW Review: THE ILLUSIONISTS: MAGIC OF THE HOLIDAYS at National Theatre
The Illusionists: Magic of the Holidays had me instantly intrigued just by the title. I was interested in the idea of coupling magic with the theme of the holidays. After all, magic is a crucial part of the holiday season, and this show sounds like an excellent addition to that magic that comes around this time of the year. Unfortunately, this show did not impress with it's "holiday magic extravaganza."
The Illusionists: Magic of the Holidays features seven magicians from around the world and three magician's assistants. I think one of my biggest problems with the show lies in its approach to try to be theatrical, comedic, and magical all at the same time. For me, when a show tries to do all three of those, they have a big challenge ahead of them. At times, I felt like I was at a cheap, late-night comedy sketch. Other times felt like some of the magicians were "wannabe actors" and resorted to providing over-the-top theatricals. With that being said, some tricks were quite impressive to watch. Valentin Azema's "speed of light" trick which involved a light bulb and a paper bag, swapping places and traveling, literally at the speed of light was both intriguing and neat. Steve Valentine, who acted as the show's MC, had some pretty impressive card tricks throughout the show as well.
The one part of this show that had me saying to myself "Wow! That was really cool" was SOS & Victoria's set. SOS & Victoria have been named "The World's Fastest Quick Change Artists" and they really do live up to that title. The set includes Victoria seamlessly changing into different, full-blown outfits and dressed within seconds. In fact, when you blink, she has already changed. The couple provides a truly memorable and stunning performance that leaves you asking... "how?"
In case you have forgotten, this is "The Magic of the Holidays" and unfortunately, the production falls flat of bringing the "holiday cheer" to the audience. Quite honestly, the holiday aspect of this show felt extremely forced and unnecessary. It seems to be a good idea and probably seems as if it would make way for a great selling point at this time of the year. Kudos to them for that. However, when sitting in the audience and realizing that the only holiday incorporated aspects are that of the comedic skits and speeches before each trick, and the transition and interlude music - which are dramatic, instrumental versions of Christmas songs, you begin to question the concept. Again, I am not a fan of cheap, late-night comedy, and when that is paired with forced holiday talk, you have officially lost me.
Despite my issues with this show, I must say that most of the audience was engaged and having fun. It is important to note that the show can connect with any age group and can be fun for the whole family. Children in particular, were especially engaged and excited. Their vocal responses were heartwarming. For those fans of magic though, you may be impressed with some tricks, but you must also buckle up for comedy sketches and theatrics gone wrong.
Run Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.
The Illusionists: Magic of the Holidays plays The National Theatre located at 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC now through December 8. For tickets, click here or call the box office at (202) 628-6161
Photo Courtesy of The National Theatre.