PLEASE NOTE: This is a review of the 2018 Broadway engagement of The Illusionists: Magic of the Holidays at the Marquis Theatre.
The Illusionists: Magic of the Holidays will blow your mind! Starring five differently talented magicians (and featuring the audience), the show is undeniably enjoyable, if sometimes over-produced. While some tricks felt sadly small for the big stage and some of the tech overly stylized for the varying scales of illusion, I found myself laughing and aweing at the mind tricks and magic placed before me by the incredibly talented acts throughout the evening at the Marquis Theatre.
Adam Trent ("The Futurist") was a charming host. His acts shifted from magical projection mapped dancing to creating endless snow from a scrap of paper. Throughout the piece, he was funny and engaging, and his sentimental story to close out the evening was touching and brought extra magic to the illusion that followed.
Chloé Crawford ("The Sorceress", and only woman in the piece) hosted an audience member for an unusual onstage dinner date, where she performed illusions that delightfully disturbed both her date and the audience. Sadly, she did not return for another trick, which felt even more unfortunate after Trent presented a young girl in the audience with the gift of an Illusionist’s magic set, stating “there needs to be more women in magic.”
"The Deductionist", Colin Cloud, performed seriously jaw-dropping mind-reading of those he hosted on stage, but also of unsuspecting audience members from their seats. His character was awkward and uncomfortable, but paired with a fun and humorous temperament that endeared us to him nonetheless.
The true star of the night was Shin Lim ("The Manipulator"), whose 2018 win of "America’s Got Talent" landed him with one million dollars and a show in Las Vegas. Many in the audience were there specifically to see Lim perform (based on the cheers he received upon walking onstage), and as someone who had not seen his manipulation of playing cards on the TV show, I have to say that I was quite quickly converted into fandom, myself.
Finally, there was "The Grand Illusionist", Darcy Oake, who made up for a lack of charisma with the scale of his illusions. Right before the audience’s eyes, a motorcycle would appear on a previously empty platform, or Oake would disappear and reappear elsewhere onstage.
While Oake’s performance required a big stage for the grand scale of his illusions, most of the other performances were simultaneously broadcast on three large screens into the theater, so those of us not asked to participate directly could see the action up close. During one of Trent’s illusions, the cameraman was positioned in front of him, so the only way I could experience the illusion was on a screen. While the experience of watching the magic this way remained incredible (after all, it was still happening right in front of me), I left with a desire for a smaller stage for the more intimate tricks that made up the majority of the evening. I wanted to truly see it with my own eyes, rather than peripherally while watching on a video screen.
Special guest act Light Balance was a total treat. Another act from "America’s Got Talent," the Ukrainian dance group, who combine dance with hi-tech neon and LED, were a joy to watch as they brought “24K Magic” to the stage between select illusions.
The Illusionists: Magic of the Holidays is a fun night out for the whole family. While the intensive lighting and booming soundscape often felt oversized and better suited for a rock concert than for the small table tricks being performed, the evening is sure to wow you with many moments of serious “how-did-they-do-that!?” magic.
(Photo by Joan Marcus)