The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible
By: David Sheward
Yes, The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible, is a big cheesy, glitzy, overproduced spectacle more suitable for a Vegas casino than a B
roadway theater. But it’s still a load of fun. Seven international purveyors of legerdemain, each with superhero-ish monicker such as The Trickster, The Inventor, and The Anti-Conjurer (whatever that is), offer two hours of family-friendly wonder. There are a few unnecessary elements such as a gigantic video screen offering close-ups of the acts which are helpful in certain sleight-of-hand maneuvers bits, but the device serves more to distance the audience than to invite them closer.
I also could have done without the goth chorus, costumed by Angela Aaron as if they were on their way to an after-hours club. But other than these minor quibbles, The Illusionists is an enchanting show.
The flamboyantly funny Jeff Hobson acts as a sort of emcee, introducing some of the acts as well as performing his own tricks, making eggs and cards disappear while stealing watches and carrying on like an uncloseted Liberace ("I wrestled RuPaul to ground for these shoes," he quips. "We both won.") South Korean Yu Ho-Jin elegantly manipulates dozens of decks of cards making them change their shapes and color and even turning them into a scarf. Adam Trent, billed as The Futurist, combines music, dance, and high-tech video. He opens the show with an amazing body switch I’m still baffled by. Equally stunning was Kevin James’s variation on the old saw-a-woman-in-half routine wherein James plays a mad scientist who accidentally splits an assistant in two and then moves the separate parts around the stage.
My favorite is Dan Sperry, who seemed to have set out to create a stage persona exactly the opposite of a traditional magician. Instead of a mature, moustachioed gent in top hat and tails, Sperry is a Marilyn Manson look-alike with white make-up, all-black garb, and long, stringy, pig-tailed hair. He sets a bizarre tone with a delightfully creepy bit of conjuring by seeming to pull a just-swallowed lifesaver out of his neck on a piece of dental floss, all to the lilting strains of "Clare de Lune." He follows this gross-out with a mad version of Russian roulette involving a cowering audience member and a dazzling display involving doves.
Aaron Crow, a martial arts and weapons expert is relegated to only one stunt involving two members of the audience, an engagement ring, and a laser beam arrow. It would have been fun to see more. Likewise, escapologist Andrew Basso has a sole major appearance, but it’s a doozy. He recreates Houdini’s break-out from a full tank of water while handcuffed and suspended upside down. A digital clock counts off the seconds as we watch Basso struggle with his chains. I was literally on the edge of my seat. Is it Shakespeare or Rodgers and Hammerstein? No, but as the song goes "That’s entertainment!"
Dec. 4-Jan. 4, 2015. Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway, NYC. Tue., Wed., 7 p.m.; Thu.,6:30 p.m.; Fri., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., 3 and 7:30 p.m. Running time: two hours including intermission. $55.75-$146.75. (800) 653-8000 or www.ticketmaster.com.