Arts magic show review

Cue the music — Broadway’s The Illusionists have come to Boston

“No, Michael, that’s not my trick...It’s my ILLUSION!”

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Dan Sperry, “The Anti-Conjuror,” performing in The Illusionists.
Courtesy of Magic Space

The Illusionists — Live from Broadway
Broadway in Boston
Boston Opera House
Apr. 4–9, 2017

The brilliantly flamboyant emcee Jeff Hobson introduces the magicians of our show, keeping you laughing with his bawdy — and as one audience member accused, “sick” — sense of humor. For the fortunate (or unfortunate) audience members sitting in the front orchestra seats, Hobson will make a joke of you while still getting you to laugh along before introducing the next performer. Each magician has a given title — Hobson is naturally “The Trickster” — and they proceed to perform segments and embody the personas of their names.

Colin Cloud, self-dubbed “The Deductionist” and a Sherlock Holmesian character, dons the “ear hat” as he deduces the thoughts of the audience. A woman — who happened to be a theatre critic — and a man are led to the stage to write their thoughts, only for Cloud to discard their notes and to deduce what they had written without looking.

Our two daring magicians, “The Escapologist” Andrew Basso and “The Daredevil” Jonathan Goodwin, perform shocking stunts to the delight of the audience. Basso revisits Houdini’s escape, impressively escaping from a water tank while handcuffed. Goodwin shoots a crossbow blindfolded, his arrow narrowly missing his assistant as it pops the balloon above her head.

“The Anti-Conjuror” Dan Sperry — to the horror of some and the delight of others — does the impossible by jamming a quarter into his eye and digging it up from its new location: buried in his arm. His stunts are not limited to body horror; he elegantly produces doves from thin air and transforms them into a single white cockatoo.

Like Sperry, Kevin James (“The Inventor”), breaks and puts back together human bodies: a modern Dr. Frankenstein. Yet his tricks can also be endearing. He calls up a child audience member to help him with his “magic glass bottle.” Learning that the bottle allowed coins to pass through, the child was wonderfully surprised, attempting to imitate James’s trick to no avail. In another illusion, James tells the story of a young girl who wished to see snow, and he produces a flurry of snowflakes from a wet napkin.

Despite the bombastic music and dramatisation, An Ha Lim, “The Manipulator,” never speaks a word but does not need to; his cardistry forms his voice. With a sleight of hand, countless cards appear at will, falling gracefully onto the stage floor over and over. He closes out the evening, as he transforms  the card surfaces from those of normal playing cards to pictures of each Illusionist and finally to the logo. Such a fluid performance is to be expected from the winner of many international tournaments.

Tricks are overly dramatized for effect, but don’t let the hokeyness deprive you of enjoyment; if you seek two hours of escapism, The Illusionists will give you that. But I will forewarn you: you are seeking innovative, new tricks, this is not the show for you (The Illusionists have been touring for a while now). With the invasion of the Internet, one Google search is all you need to understand how most classic magic tricks work, and truthfully, the show prioritizes entertainment over magic. And if you are anything like me — a child who has never grown up — you might receive a nostalgic reminder of wonder at the impossible made possible.