Birds soar, snow falls, cards fly and your mind gets read at "The Illusionists"
The answer is: I don't know!
The question is: How did he do that?
Again, the answer is I DON'T KNOW! GOT IT? I DON'T FREAKIN' KNOW.
There are not enough superlatives in either a dictionary or a thesaurus to describe "The Illusionists," the Broadway magic hit that opened a week-long run at the Marcus Center Tuesday night.
But let's take a run at it: astonishing, astounding, wonderful, magnificent, marvelous, dazzling, spectacular, awe-inspiring, thrilling, stunning, bewildering, overwhelming, staggering, fabulous, incredible, jaw-dropping, eye-popping, unreal and awesome.
There are certainly a number of words left out, but those will have to do for now.
This show, which set attendance records on Broadway four years ago, is a parade of seven magicians who, along with a heaping number of helpful audience members, took turns performing feats of legerdemain that brought gasps and shrieks from a capacity house.
It's not easy to describe this show, especially since I'm a full-time believer. In my dreams, I am going to grow up to be either David Blaine or David Copperfield or even David Seebach, our local big-time magician. Magic runs deep in my bones, as my mother, as a young girl in the late 1930s, got sawed in half by the famed Chicago magician Harry Blackstone.
No matter how many times you see this stuff, it never gets old – especially the mixture of breathtaking tricks and high-toned humor that run through this show.
The show – complete with smoke, mirrors, magical music and a huge video screen to watch the sorcery up close – revolves around Jeff Hobson, called "The Trickster," who channeled his inner Liberace and mixed it with Professor Harold Hill to be both a ringmaster and a sleight-of-hand master.
Hobson is joined at various times by Andrew Basso (The Escapologist), Colin Cloud (The Deductionist), Jonathan Goodwin (The Daredevil), Kevin James (The Inventor), An Ha Lim (The Manipulator) and Dan Sperry (The Anti-Conjuror).
The tricks were all new to me.
Sure, James cut a man in half, but this time, the top and the bottom of the man all moved, first independent of each other and then as a regular old guy once James put things back together.
Sperry pulled a rabbit out of a hat, then shot it out of the air with a shotgun (don't worry, it wasn't a real rabbit), and then moved on to pull pigeons from just about everywhere, sending them out to fly over the crowd, and come back to be placed gently into the cage which ended up disappearing before my very eyes.
There were so many highlights that trying to get to them all will do a disservice to those that don't get a mention. Everything was impressive – with the exception of Basso, who got handcuffed and dropped into water, and Goodwin, who shot a crossbow to pop balloons and stuff. Both require skill, but there was never any sense of amazement. Basso held his breath for two minutes and 48.5 seconds, and that was impressive, but everybody knew he was going to escape. And everyone knew that Goodwin wasn't going to kill any pretty girl.
Skill, yes. Magic? Not by a long shot.
But the magic, holy crow.
Sperry brought a woman to the stage, had her mark an X and an O on her own quarter, put it in his eye, push it inside his head and then watch as the quarter reappeared in a slice he made in his own arm. With a video closeup, the gasps and groans were audible.
Cloud was dazzling with his mind-reading prestidigitation. He had two guests, one who thought of the last friend he had seen and Cloud guessed the name. Another thought of the name of her first pet, and he got that one right, too. Then he moved through a variety of audience members, guessing the names of their pets and their birthdays. He never missed.
But the highlight of the evening for me was the first appearance of An Ha Lim, a simply astounding South Korean performer.
Standing under a simple light with music accompanying his every move, he pulled what seemed like an endless supply of cards out of the air and deposited them on the floor. One swipe after another he pulled the cards from everywhere – sometimes one at a time, sometimes entire decks. There was no way, absolutely no way, to figure out where these cards were coming from. You always expected him to run out of cards, but he never did. Ever.
As I said, the operative question in all of magic is, "How did he do that?" The always operative answer is, "I don't frickin' know."
"The Illusionists" runs through Feb. 19 and information on showtimes and tickets is available here.
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