Seven Masters of Magic Make THE ILLUSIONISTS: LIVE FROM BROADWAY Must See

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THE ILLUSIONISTS: LIVE FROM BROADWAY, at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis Mar 31 - Apr 2.

THE ILLUSIONISTS: LIVE FROM BROADWAY is a tricky show to review, no pun intended. How can I discuss magic tricks, illusions, mentalism, and death-defying stunts when I don’t know how 99% of them are done and magic is generally a visual event that words alone cannot reproduce? THE ILLUSIONISTS is a show featuring seven of the top magicians and daredevils in the world. It’s an event that must be seen to be believed, and you only have until the last two shows on Sunday, April 2, 2017 to catch them at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis before they disappear, presumably in a puff of theatrical smoke.

The seven masters of their art are:

Jeff Hobson, aka The Trickster. A natural showman (and reportedly a natural blond), Hobson is the perfect host for the show, with a warm high tenor voice that draws you in, a liberal dash of uninhibited flamboyance that keeps you laughing, and a great stage presence to distract you from his sleight of hand chicanery. My favorite bit with him was the egg in the sack. It’s not the most difficult trick to pull off if it’s just you performing it, but it’s a marvelous gag when you bring someone from the audience onstage to perform it for you. His slow-motion replay and simultaneous insult of Festus (don’t start, Festus, everybody knows) was outstanding and his whole routine throughout the show wass laugh-out-loud funny.

Kevin James, The Inventor. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Kevin James, aka The Inventor. When Kevin James, a Magic Castle Hall of Famer, ambled on stage for the first time, I thought, “Sweet! This guy is the real life Wizard of Oz!” Inventing illusions is no easy feat, but inventing illusions that other magicians perform puts you in a very exclusive club. When those “other” magicians are the likes of Penn & Teller and David Copperfield, well, good luck being better at your job than he is at his! We’re coming up on The Manipulator, but Mr. James is no slouch in that department either, manipulating the audiences’ emotions through dark comedy (putting dummy pieces in a box and transforming them into a living person), macabre horror (cutting a man in half, and then stapling him back together, seemingly none the worse for wear) and sweet innocence (inviting a young member of the audience to channel her own inner magician to make a wadded-up piece of tissue paper dance at her gesture). For more on Kevin James, check out my friend Kevin Brackett’s piece on http://www.reviewstl.com/illusionists-live-from-broadway-fabulous-fox-kevin-james-0331/

An Ha Lim, aka The Manipulator. This South Korean entertainer has won a boatload of prizes from magic competitions over the years, and his deft manipulation of playing cards is simply incredible. Producing cards from thin air, repeatedly for a good five minutes or more, with arms at times outstretched so far that it would be impossible (for the average Joe, obviously) to be plucking them from his clothes or, presumably, palming or hiding them behind his hands and fanning them out without dropping whatever he’s palming/hiding—yeah, I can’t explain it. He closed the show with a little prestidigitation, transforming ordinary playing cards into cast pictures and the spread deck into a title banner. As someone who’s never had the most nimble of fingers, I’m pretty much in awe of anyone who can do card manipulations well. Mr. Lim does them better than almost anyone.

Dan Sperry, aka The Anti-Conjuror. A social media sensation, Dan Sperry adds a little bit of “sideshow” flavor to the proceedings. He’s a little “far out” as the kids used to say, with his wild hair, wilder makeup, wildly irreverent attitude. His specialty is what you might call “street magic,” as popularized by David Blaine on various TV specials. He asked a member of the audience to uniquely mark a quarter, which he then inserted into his eye like he was putting on a contact lens, and then magically made appear under his skin, which he sliced open with a knife to reveal the uniquely marked quarter. Gross, but exciting! He did some neat bird conjuring (or would that be anti-conjuring, in his case?) before transforming a whole cage full of doves into a single cockatoo. As a macaw owner myself I was very happy with that trick. My little green buddy Lex would have approved too!

Colin Cloud, aka The Deductionist. I assume this likable Scotsman calls himself “The Deductionist” because he is a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, as am I. I’ve typically seen acts similar to his referred to as Mentalists, but perhaps CBS somehow managed to copyright that term for their long-running prime time crime drama. At any rate, Colin Cloud’s act was the type of magic I’m the most familiar with, having studied it a little bit myself. There was one trick that I have a pretty good notion about how he does it, but his banter with the audience, where he correctly guesses names, birthdates and other small bits of random stranger trivia was pretty astounding. I used to know a much more basic version of his math trick, where he asks various audience members to give him a random number, which another audience member punches into their iPhone calculator. Before long, Mr. Cloud put the answer to this group math problem on a chalk board, and with a couple of simple flourishes separated the digits into the attendance of the show, the date and the current time. While I believe I know the central concept of the trick, it was certainly no less enthralling to be a part of it.

Jonathan Goodwin aka The Daredevil. “Have crossbow, will astound!” should be the slogan on Jonathan Goodwin’s business card, though “World’s Greatest Theatrical Daredevil” is more impressive and more accurate. He has performed a wide variety of stunts; including being buried alive (I’m somewhat claustrophobic  so that one freaks me out without even having seen it), being hung by the neck, being hung be the toes…while hanging underneath a helicopter, being attacked by all manner of killer creatures, you get the picture. Since giant shark tanks and helicopters are impractical in indoor theatres, his act in THE ILLUSIONISTS is centered on the aforementioned crossbow. He fires at a couple of fairly simple stationary targets before his lovely assistant Katie Jaime comes out to hold the targets for him, sometimes in her hand, sometimes in her mouth. Even an expert would have a hard time hitting a newspaper on the edge with a crossbow bolt at 20 paces, but the Fox Theatre’s air conditioning had the single sheet of newspaper fluttering about. When it was all said and done, Katie was unscratched. And so was Miss Hollie England, but you won’t believe where she was hiding the whole time.

Andrew Basso, The Escapologist.  Image Credit: The IllusionistsLast but certainly not least…

Andrew Basso, aka The Escapologist. Andrew Basso is Italian and clearly a little bit insane. You’d have to be if your life’s ambition is to become the modern Harry Houdini.  Mr. Basso has reached that pinnacle in the field of escapology, and on the Fox stage he performed Houdini’s most dangerous stunt, the Water Torture Cell Escape. THE ILLUSIONISTS is generally an all ages appropriate show, but watching Mr. Basso work his way out of police-grade handcuffs, foot shackles and the lid latch with a regular paperclip, while suspended upside-down in a glass box filled with cold water is pretty intense stuff. The average person can hold their breath underwater for about two minutes. It took at least 20 seconds before the stage hands had finished securing the lid after Andrew was already submerged, and a fair bit more than the average two minutes before he finally escaped, cold and wet and presumably with sore ankles but otherwise unharmed. Yes, I realize that’s a bit of a spoiler, but give me a break--would you rather I report that he drowned? That would be a spoiler of a much greater magnitude! Needless to say, I hope: Kids, don’t try this at home!

Do, however, kiddies, try your hand at some fundamental magic tricks. The souvenir stand included the typical shirts and such, but also the official “The Illusionists” magician’s kit. It would be a great story to cover in my golden years if one of the young members of the audience eventually reaches the heights of magical talent these seven have accomplished. Better yet, perhaps a woman could break into the upper echelon of such a male-dominated calling.

THE ILLUSIONISTS: LIVE FROM BROADWAY is a fantastically fun evening of laughs, surprises and mystery. Catch it if you can by April 2, 2017, at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis, and enjoy the thrill of live magic performed by some of the best in the world today. To make it truly magical, experience it with someone you care about—nothing beats seeing the joy and astonishment in their eyes when they’re forgetting about all of their daily stress and truly enjoying themselves. Make a magic moment with your friends, family and loved ones this weekend! Please visit www.FabulousFox.com for ticket information, and for more on this tremendous tour including when The Illusionts are coming to your town, visit www.TheIllusionistsLive.com.

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0