By Gary Murray
Starring Andrew Basso, Aaron Crow, Jeff Hobson, Yu Ho-Jin, Kevin James, Don Sperry and Adam Trent
Creative Director Jim Millan
Director/Choreographer Neil Dorward
Like all pre-teen boys, I was interested in magic. The thought of being up on stage and mesmerizing an audience is a powerful pull. But like most pre-teens my magic box eventually fell into the back of the closet and another obsession took its place. Well, the men who perform in The Illusionists never gave up on that hobby and have become professionals in their craft.
The performance is a take-off from the old style magic show. This is just not a group of different magicians giving their best tricks a run-through but a fully conceived performance. Each of the magicians is given a persona name, more like a character in a play than the individual themselves.
Adam Trent starts the show. He is given the nom de plume as The Futurist. He welcomes the audience by making them comfortable and doing some coin and card tricks. Then he goes into the audience and talks to an old man. The old man pulls off his mask and he is Adam Trent. It is an impressive bit of magic.
The show then has an opening number which features both dancers and the introduction of some of the other magicians. There is the escape from being suspended as well as a train disappearing. We also see our dancers who have a few moments but are more for filler. The band near the wings gives the perception of a rock concert.
Jeff Hobson takes the stage next. He is known as The Trickster and that is a perfect description. The man is a master of card tricks and close-up magic. He is also a comedian and has the audience in stitches with his flippant remarks. Some of his jokes are a bit corny but he knows it and plays along with his own material.
In the first act, there are three moments that truly amaze. Don Sperry, The Anti-Conjuror does an illusion with a Life Saver and dental floss that brings the audience to its feet. There is no patter with the stunt, he just does the trick without explaining what he is about to do Don Sperry is a bizarre-looking individual, more of a mix of Marilyn Manson and Chris Angel than the standard tuxedo wearing conjurer.
Andrew Basso is the Escapologist and he performs a variation of Houdini’s water escape, but he does it without the concealment. We can see the struggle to remove him from the bindings. It is a tense three minutes.
But the most impressive feat from the first part of the show is done by The Manipulator, Yu Ho-Jin. He performs a card trick that is almost a ballet of cards and man. At 19, he was considered one of the best in the world and that skill has not diminished. It is a breath-taking bit of mystical manipulations.
The Second Act is much of the same. Don Sperry finally talks and shows that he is a gifted comic and much more in tune with a modern audience. He plays a Russian roulette trick with an audience member. All during the show, different audience members were brought up on stage to assist the magicians in their performances. It becomes a very interactive night.
The show ends with the future of magic and Adam Trent showing his futuristic view of how magic will evolve. He does an illusion with the screens that is part old style magic and part modern video manipulations. It is a delicate balance that he handles with smooth skill.
But like all shows, it is not over yet. The encore is Yu Ho-Jin doing a magic card manipulation that ties the entire show together. It also becomes a promotion for the show. There is also a slight goose to get the audience on their feet. He turns four cards into the Texas flag.
The only problem with the performance is that it doesn’t build to a giant conclusion. It is a show that just kind of ends with a card trick. I expected some grand illusion with all the magicians together but that is not this show.
The Illusionists is subtitled “Witness the Impossible” and that is probably the best way to sum up this show. There are feats of daring and slight of handworks that mesmerizes the audience. There are so few family shows that entertain the entire family. This is the rarest of performances, a show that will appeal to everyone, no matter what their age.