If you’re looking for some magic to add sparkle to your holiday season, head to the Marriott Marquis Theatre for The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible, a jolting revue of seven of the world’s most dynamic variety performers. You might see some familiar faces, as Kevin James (The Inventor), Adam Trent (The Futurist), and Dan Sperry (The Anti-Conjuror) have appeared on America’s Got Talent. And in this case, they do. The live performance, which also includes Andrew Basso (The Escapologist), Aaron Crow (The Warrior), Jeff Hobson (The Trickster) and Yu Ho-Jin (The Manipulator), is a mash-up of trickery that appeals to audience members of all ages, though the littlest ones might freak out at Sperry’s Edward Scissorhands-like costume and make-up.
Each of the illusionists has a specialty and director/choreographer Neil Dorward along with creative director Jim Millan maximize not only their talents, but the cumulative ebb and flow of the evening.
Adam Trent as the boy-next-door Futurist is a likeable magician with standard fare card tricks and a high-tech sequence in the second act that incorporate digital video.
Aaron Crow as the Warrior makes one impactful appearance where he shoots an apple off of an audience member’s head while her husband holds the fruit on a tray precariously over her head. The young coupled either popped a Xanax before the trick or were perhaps pre-selected prior to the performance. In either case, they were oddly calm and seemed to have a knowing sense of what was to transpire.
Jeff Hobson as the Trickster brings a flamboyant flair to the evening. And while his card tricks and other slights of hand may seem like familiar party trick fare, his winning personality and bigger-than-life persona easily enrapture the audience.
Andrew Basso as the Escapologist also delivers one heart-stopping trick: a reinvention of the famed Houdini water torture escape. Only this time, there is no shrouded tank. The audience has full view as Basso miraculously holds his breath for nearly three minutes while he dangles from his ankles underwater, releasing himself only with the assistance of a bobby pin.
Kevin James as the Inventor makes several appearances. One cringing sequence involves sawing a man in half while the other captures the delicacy of levitation.
Dan Sperry also appears multiple times and is probably the only act that might benefit from Acting 101. His macabre stage persona suits him well, but when tasked with explaining a broken bottle trick, his rapid-fire vocal delivery leaves the audience in shards.
But it is Yu Ho-Jin, recently named Magician of the Year (2014) by the Academy of Magical Arts that exhibits entrancing star quality. Also working with a deck (make that dozens of decks) of cards, Ho-Jin lures the audience with subtle movement and smoky stares, revealing an ever-revolving array of cards that seem to magically transform color and suit and at one point, grow out of thin air.
You’re bound to see an interesting crowd of tourists and reality TV fans at The Illusionists, but that’s half the fun. Gasps and screams of glee echo throughout the evening, as well as several “Oh my God!” moments that remind us how invigorating live performance can be.
Through January 4, 2015