Witness the Impossible
The fun is no illusion in this magical medley
|Broadway in Chicago presents|
|The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible|
Review by Clint May
Since the modern era of elaborately staged and multimedia-enhanced illusions was ushered in by David Copperfield and his ilk, the profession has been slowly but inexorably diversifying. Reality shows (is that term even appropriate when referring to an illusionist?) have sprung up around major celebrities like the quietly hypnotic David Blaine and the edgier Manson-esque Criss Angel while others follow small time performers using their sleight of hand to achieve such impossible feats as picking up a woman at a bar. Whatever your taste in illusionist — the term “magician” is passé — there’s one out there for you. Capitalizing beautifully on this preposition, a veritable sampler platter of seven of the world’s best have been joined together into a slick and delightfully entertaining package of wonderment.
The very affable Adam Trent (The Futurist) and the mincingly hilarious Jeff Hobson (The Trickster) do the bulk of the emcee work. Each illusionist is given a chance to demonstrate the talent that gives them their moniker with a combination of unique illusions and unique spins on classics.
Aaron Crow (The Warrior) gives one lucky couple a William Tell-styled chance to renew their vows that gives new meaning to the term “put a ring on it.” In an homage to Houdini, Andrew Basso (The Escapologist) performs the infamous Chinese Water Torture Cell, an event we are told is absolutely not an illusion and one that almost went awry at the Sydney Opera House. Famed sleight-of-hand artist Yu Ho-Jin (The Manipulator) wordlessly demonstrates his confounding athleticism of the hands on decks of cards that appear to metamorphosize at faster-than-light speeds.
Those are mostly the shorter bits however. Long form storytelling and elaborate set pieces are reserved for the more loquacious illusionists. Trent shows us his version of the future of magic with a multimedia choreographed stunt piece reminiscent of the kind of cheeky tableaux of Blue Man Group. Hobson’s over-the-top cruise ship patter (I mean that in the best possible way — he had me in stitches) charms with his sequined suits and audience interactions. I’m not sure what an “Anti-Conjuror” is, but Dan Sperry is undeniably weird in his goth getup. His take on the game of Russian Roulette with a female audience member may have you peeking through your fingers. An avuncular Kevin James (The Inventor) performs both close-up magic and some long form trickery in his mad scientist laboratory.
Everything is zippy and well-choreographed, complete with a live band, dancers and pyrotechnics. Nothing’s really missing per se, though I was surprised there was no confluence of all seven in one grand illusion. This is more a revue than the kind of Copperfieldian or Penn and Tellerian thematic illusionism with any sort of throughline story. Though some bits may be too scary for the most wee ones among us, this is fun for the whole brood. Act fast before they disappear for real.
The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible continues through March 22nd at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph (map). Tickets are $16-$90, and are available by phone (800-775-2000) or online through Ticketmaster.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at BroadwayInChicago.com. (Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)
Photos by Joan Marcus
Dan Sperry (The Anti-Conjuror), Aaron Crow (The Warrior), Adam Trent (The Futurist), Kevin James (The Inventor), Jeff Hobson (The Trickster), Andrew Basso (The Escapologist), Yu Ho-Jin (The Manipulator)