The Illusionists are a band of millennial magicians currently touring their hit Broadway show ‘Witness the Impossible.’ The magicians brought their Vegas-slick production for a week at the Academy of Music, playing to a sold-out house opening night Feb 24, the magicians appear, with mock gravitas, like reality TV show stars on the edge of the stage laser lights slashing and rock band crashing in,the dazzling atmospherics swirling.
Emcee Adam Trent, aka The Futurist, set up the acts, his boyish charm coaxes audience involvement. Trent is very talky getting to his first real trick, a nifty illusion of body prestidigitation, with an ancient codger in the audience (or was he. Later Trent has futuristic magic to do, punching through 3-D screens with LED lightning tricks.
The show seeks to conjure something to everyone’s taste. Along with state of the art smoke and mirror tech, The Illusionists indulge in tricks that could have been rummaged in a Vaudevillian kit left backstage at the opera house in 1900. And a heavy lean on card tricks- lots and lots of card tricks with live feeds on an arena screen, above the magician’s sleights of hands.
Yu Ho-Jin (The Manipulator), is the Academy of Magician’s Arts (AMA) 2014 Magician of the Year. Ho-Jin is the Fred Astaire of hand dancing card tricks, bringing the art to a new level. Fanning deck after deck, that appears and vanishes, morphed from his elegant scarf, his fluidity and simplicity of movement utterly entrances.
For the highest dramatic tension, Andrew Basso (The Escapologist) performs Houdini’s famous underwater tank escape without a tank cover for those crucial seconds that Houdini dislocated his joints. Basso uses a bobby pin to uncuff himself, while he is underwater, upside-down, nostrils clipped. There edge of your seat suspense while he tries to spring himself to safety, as the digital clock ticks off the cringing minutes, down to gasping seconds.
A Vegas throwback and apparently comic relief for many is Jeff Hobson (The Trickster). Good with those musty card and egg tricks,and fun enough to laugh at his own shtick. But dial the petrified gay camp a bit. Fey jokes with middle-aged straight men in the audience for Liberace laughs is more than a little cringe-worthy. (Full disclosure though, the audience loved him, so the trick’s on me.)
Aaron Crow (The Warrior) decked out in leather and feather regalia to compliment his sneering good looks, Crow plucked a couple from the audience for a little archer practice involving an apple, the couple’s ring and a crossbow. Kevin James (the Inventor) performed levitating paper tricks that were memorizing the kids in the audience, but his grisly scenes of sawing lab techs in half is too stagy and relies on grisly shock value, a little goes a very long way.
But it is the comic prestidigitator Dan Sperry (The Anti-Conjurer) with in Marilyn Manson melting make-up and Goth-punk hair ala The Cure. His stream of consciousness banter who could give Beckett a run for his money. Sperry’s inventive and dazzling mini-acts- the first involving a life safer, dental floss and his neck has gross out edge, later he riffled through explanations of Russian Roulette gone wrong with one a very good sport from the audience. But Sperry’s finale, showed him as the masterful magician he is, working with doves, some real, some mechanical and his sleights of hand, a mind-blowing conjuring despite his moniker of The Anti-Conjuror.
The live music by the band Z, has precision and swagger and not a little parody Vegas moments, the sound design for the magicians though, was very ragged and needs tuning. The dance team of magicians’ assistants are underused and could benefit from more show dance tightness. But, this show, for all its pastiche, ultimately seduces more than it dazzles and that is always the best trick, aces out or not.