During intermission for “The Illusionists – Witness the Impossible,” which is a loud magic show making a six-week stop at Broadway’s Marquis theater as part of a 32-city U.S. tour, I visited the little portable gift shop in the lobby, and asked the usher what was selling best.
“The magnets, but I hear the magic kit is great,” he said, and suddenly a red dot of light appeared on his thumb, which he threw to his other thumb and back again…magically.
“How did you do that?”
He took off his fake thumbs.
The usher thus offered three things that “The Illusionists” did not – surprise, low-key charm, and an explanation.
Of course, it’s understood that a professional magician won’t give away his tricks, and low-key may not lure enough people into a series of huge theaters for a live act, given expectations raised by CGI. If they’re not low-key, the magicians are certainly not without their charms, each in his own way. Even the lack of surprise shouldn’t necessarily be a deal-breaker, especially for younger children; yes, the seven magicians in “The Illusionists” perform tricks we’ve all seen before, but a kinder way of saying this is that they deal in classical magic. What they do is hyped up with a live video cam (essential for the card tricks), the live rock/rap band Z, some dozen dancing “magician assistants” and about the same number of volunteered audience members, as well as dramatic lighting, and the sort of suspenseful music we’re used to hearing from “So You Want To Be A Millionaire.” The show is reminiscent of the big-arena magic show as presented in last year’s film Now You See Me, but without anything close to a bank heist as a payoff.
Adam Trent (The Futurist) is the MC for the evening, greeting us with “Hello, New York” – a surefire tipoff that this is a traveling show. He has some fun interacting with prerecorded videos, many of himself. Jeff Hobson (The Trickster) focuses on card tricks and tells some silly jokes.
Yu-Ho Jin (The Manipulator) silently and elegantly wiggles his hands and does some additional card tricks. Aaron Crow (The Warrior) shoots an apple off of somebody’s head with an arrow.
Kevin James (The Inventor) chops people in half, quite convincingly. He also showers us with confetti, sprouting mysteriously from his hand.
Andrew Basso (The Escapologist) is handcuffed and locked upside into a booth full of water; he has three minutes to escape. Appearing shirtless before his dunk, he’s a good candidate for the Sexiest Magician Alive.
Dan Sperry (The Anti-Conjuror) turns ribbons of cloth into live fluttering doves and then makes them turn red, or disappear in a burst of flame. I found him the most intriguing, if only because of his punk get-up.
Maybe on their next tour, “The Illusionists – Witness the Impossible,” will perform a feat of quite possible magic, and add a female magician to the cast.
The Illusionists will be at the Marriot Marquis Theater through January 4, 2015.