In the mainstream of magic, casual fans are generally most familiar with the likes of Harry Houdini, David Copperfield, Siegfried & Roy, David Blaine, Penn & Teller and Criss Angel, though to those who’ve kept their eye on emerging trends, “The Illusionists” are steadily bolting to the head of the current class. Between their time on Broadway and touring the entire globe, the production that shatters stereotypes and always leaves the audience guessing is the best seller of its kind (currently playing through March 22 at Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre).
“The Illusionists” simultaneously celebrate the past, while forging forward with an ambitious merger of magic, art and entertainment.
Rather than revolving the show around a single entertainer, the two act extravaganza that boldly lives up to its “Witness The Impossible” subtitle features seven of today’s most famous faces, all rotating turns to showcase their mastery of an individual discipline. For the slightly more traditional magic lover, there’s the Liberace-inspired The Trickster (Jeff Hobson), who may have a relatively minimalist set-up compared to some of his cohorts (like a compact yet mind-blowing egg-in-a-bag disappearing display), but is arguably the night’s funniest (and for sure the most lovingly flamboyant).
Then there’s the The Anti-Conjuror (Dan Sperry), who’s clearly a fan of Marilyn Manson that specializes in gothic-tipped trickery with instant appeal for alternative-minded audiences, although purists are also destined to marvel at his dove-producing masterpiece. In terms of adventure, The Escapologist (Andrew Basso) has no trouble nailing Houdini’s historic “Water Torture Cell” routine, even if the escalating music seems to give away the fact he’s getting one step closer to a death-defying exit.
Additional physicality comes from The Warrior (Aaron Crow), whose talents were unfortunately under-utilized with just a single headlining segment, but he makes one of the best uses of audience participation involving a bow and arrow, a prized wedding ring and a potentially dangerous set of circumstances. The Inventor (Kevin James) is basically the mad scientist of the bunch, and though some of his lab experiments are a bit bizarre to follow, his ability to create a snow-like effect out of his bare hands is downright astounding.
Still some of the most marvelous sights come from the silent but nonetheless grand card wizardry (transmitted on a jumbo screen) of The Manipulator (Yu Ho-Jin), who was named the 2014 “Magician of the Year” by Academy of Magical Arts and is advanced well beyond his youthful years. Add in The Futurist (Adam Trent), who blends technology with dance to create jaw dropping virtual murals, and “The Illusionists” simultaneously celebrate the past, while forging forward with an ambitious merger of magic, art and entertainment.
“The Illusionists” continue performing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre through March 22. For additional details, visit broadwayinchicago.com.