*published on 23 Nov 2015 in The EDGE
We all want the holidays to be magical, even if we sometimes balk at the commercialism sewn into every early advertisement and the blaring carols. But there is something to be said for celebrating the darkest time of the year, which was the original druid impetus for a yuletide, equinox celebration and of bringing trees and lights inside. So this year I kicked off the holidays with magic.
I carted my goddaughters, 9 and 7, to the “The Illusionists — Live on Broadway” for a Sunday matinee and we had a rollicking blast. From the moment you enter, the stage is filled with a video of smoke emanating from somewhere marvel filled.
The show has a modern electronic, yet vaudevillian inspiration. There are six magicians, illusionists, ventriloquists, daredevils, conjurers and a futurist. They are all introduced and artfully segued by the MC, Jeff Hobson, who bills himself as the Trickster.
The Trickster tells jokes that make the adults laugh and the kids just see him as silly and over the top with his sequins and platinum hair. And his occasional card tricks keep us occupied while the massive stage at the Neil Simon Theater is constantly transformed. After all fire, cross bows, straitjackets, and dancing girls all must move on and off in order for the next level of wonder to be revealed.
The show runs over two hours and it rarely seems to lag as the acts are interspersed so smoothly by director and creative producer Neil Dorwood. The work of these seven artists, because this really is an artistic pursuit when shown so beautifully, is inspiring. We all gasp and endlessly imagine how did they do every trick.
There is a very scary act by Daredevil, Jonathan Goodwin who is a creative, skilled, and crazy stunt performer. He is an accomplished knife thrower, archer, escape artist, fakir, martial artist, free diver and free climber. Goodwin is not a magician, but he left us breathless. So much so that when he lit himself on fire while inverted and trapped in a straitjacket, I turned to the older girl and said “I cant look.” She responded that she was sure he had done this before. Ahhh, jaded youth.
The show then moves to a serene, elegant series of balletic card tricks performed by Korean born, Yu Ho-Jin, who calls himself The Manipulator. He is touted as a rising superstar in the world of magic and was named the 2014 “Magician of the Year,” by Academy of Magical Arts and was the first Asian to win the Grand Prix at the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques, also known as the “Olympics of Magic.” His work is calming, soothing and yet still awe-inspiring.
A final favorite, and very Halloween, is the The Anti-Conjuror, Dan Sperry. He is Marilyn Manson meets David Copperfield, and perhaps could be described as a practitioner of black magic. His first act was to swallow razor blades and then swallow string and finally tug them all out of this gullet tied together. Gross was the response from my row.
Later in the show, he borrows a quarter from an audience member, and then inserts it into his eye. He then slits his forearm open, very bloodily and extracts the coin from his arm. In fact I don’t even want to know how he does it, and we all agreed, we wouldn’t want that coin back.
Another favorite was The Futurist, Adam Trent, who works with video and lasers and creates a beautiful synthesis of technological illusions, dance and comedy all interlaced with classic techniques.
The time seemed to zoom by, dare I say magically.
“The Illusionists: Live on Broadway” runs through Jan. 3, 2016, at the Neil Simon Theater, 250 52 Street. For information or tickets, visit www.theillusionistslive.com/tickets/broadway