A day after seeing William Shatner at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, the next day I got to see “The Illusionists” a spectacular magic show and great family entertainment. Actually, my wife got the tickets for us for my birthday back in February and they happen to fall on this date next to Shatner. The Illusionists consist of five fantastic magicians, several like Colin Cloud who have been on America’s Got Talent. It just came off a very successful Broadway stint and is now touring around America. The production which features a rotating cast of 5 to 8 magicians who all specialize in specific branches of magic from stage illusions to mind reading to escapology and comedic magic. It has shattered box office records across the globe and dazzles audiences of all ages with a powerful mix of the most outrageous and astonishing acts ever to be seen on stage.
Jeff Hobson (aka The Trickster) is the emcee and consummate showman, bringing a little bit of Vegas glitz and cheese to New Jersey Performing Arts Center. He keeps the show moving with his wise-cracking jokes, antics, and stories that make even the most tried and true card and rope tricks seem new. He reminded me a lot of Liberace with his mannerisms, voice and hairstyle
The Inventor Kevin James‘ act feels more like a throwback to his 2007 stint on America’s Got Talent with the same operation trick you’ve seen where he saws a man in half and then suspends his torso inviting a woman from the audience to come up and feel underneath the torso and touch him. When she does the torso reacts with a loud “boo”: and the woman screams and the audience laughs..
It’s the same Operation shtick that has been seen on YouTube millions of times (literally). Still, James has moments where he performs the classic effects he created, like the Floating Rose trick and Snow that ignites a spark of childlike wonder in even the most cynical of critics.
Danger acts never get old and Jonathan Goodwin (aka The Daredevil) delivers. He’s a cross between the strong man at the circus and Houdini making him a crowd favorite. He lies upon a bed of nails, asking a female from the audience to test it out first to see that it’s real which she does by having her lie on them. He then explains that a whole bed of nails is less painful than just one nail. At that time he removes the top layer of nails and reveals just one nail which he lies on and has the woman smash a cinder block on his chest with a sledgehammer.
Goodwin also does a Houdini trick with having an assistant wrap him in chains and locks then steps into a water-filled tank which is locked all around and he has to get out or drown. .The tank is covered and a clock ticks away the seconds until he comes out. He finally makes it out after over three minutes under water.
But the standout of the show is Forensic Mind Reader Colin Cloud (aka The Deductionist). Cloud opens the show and returns in the second act to deliver a mind-bending performance that mesmerizes the audience, just as he did the judges on last season’s America’s Got Talent. The producers of The Illusionists should give him more stage time, as his performance alone is worth the price of admission cementing his place as the face of a “new generation of magicians” (although he is more entertainer and comedian than a magician per se).
There is also an Asian magician from South Korea who does fantastic tricks with cards constantly pulling them out of thin air.
Although some of The Illusionists’ tricks have been seen time and time again, the show is entertaining, particularly if you can suspend belief and take it for what it is – good family fare. As with all magic tricks, the presentation is 80% of the trick to distract and entertain the audience which they certainly do here.
Since the act is so visual it is difficult to describe the acts so I found an exciting video you can check out that gives a good summary of what they do. Check out “The Illusionists” if they come to a theater near you.