REVIEW: “The Illusionists – Magic of the Holidays”
For a fourth time, “The Illusionists” are back on Broadway, presenting a limited-run deluxe magic show featuring illusions, close-up magic, and mentalism performed by top practitioners in the field.
With the slick and often cheesy feel of a live television show taping, this edition, dubbed “Magic of the Holidays”, also harkens back to a form of entertainment once far more common on New York stages: the variety show. Hosted by a charming Adam Trent, “The Futurist”, the show consists of nearly a dozen isolated acts, each anchored around a different “illusionist” personality.
Headliner Shin Lim, “The Manipulator”, hails fresh from his fame as the 2018 champion of “America’s Got Talent”—and his card tricks are quite unique and impressive, even if his stage presence is hokey and underwhelming. Equally as mind-blowing, though, is mentalist Colin Cloud, “The Deductionist”. Their multiple appearances were highlights of the show, and, as a relative newbie to the form, rightly kept me thinking: “how’d they do that?”
Far more traditional is Darcy Oake, “The Grand Illusionist”, who produces birds from his jacket and appears and disappears like nearly every magician you’ve ever seen before. Chloé Crawford, “The Sorceress”, is the only woman and only illusionist to perform one act—and it’s a bizarre one at that. After awkwardly choosing an older male audience member to “go on a date” with her, she sits on the edge of the stage, swallows a series of razor blades, then coughs them up, connected in one chain. That’s the act.
The holiday theme—a marketing ploy—is lamely mapped onto a pre-existing show that plays year-round, and consists of Christmas songs piped into the auditorium, some holiday-themed projections, and a fake snowfall at the end. Two dance routines by 2017 “America’s Got Talent” competitors Light Balance round out the evening. While technically impressive (watch this video), as a “one trick” act, their second appearance is more of a filibuster.
If you love audience participation, “The Illusionists” is the show for you, as each act involves one if not several audience members plucked from the crowd. My main takeaway: the general public is not very good at following simple instructions like, for example, “don’t tell me your birthday” (he did) or “pick a single word from this book” (she picked two).
It’s all good, harmless fun, though, and that is ultimately the point of a show like “The Illusionists”. There is no substitute for seeing magic in person. If you’re looking for an entertaining, well-produced, and mainstream magic show this holiday season, check it out.
“The Illusionists – Magic of the Holidays”
210 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036
Running Time: 2 hours (one intermission)
Opening Night: November 23, 2018
Final Performance: December 30, 2018