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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Marriott Marquis


  Kevin James/ Ph: Joan Marcus

During the two-plus hours of The Illusionists, the larger-than-life magic show now stopping at Broadway’s Marriott Marquis Theatre through Jan. 4, your brain (and perhaps your mouth) will be constantly switching between two thoughts: How did he do that? And, why is this taking so long?

There’s no question that the seven so-called Illusionists (each of whom has been given a rather cutesy title) who have gathered together for this Las Vegas-style extravaganza are capable of feats of legerdemain that live up to the show’s tagline, “Witness the Impossible.” Foremost among them is South Korea’s impossibly serene Yu Ho-Jin (aka The Manipulator), who mysteriously transforms his white scarf into a single playing card, which then becomes decks of variously colored cards, before somehow returning to its original state. No wonder he was named 2014 Magician of the Year by the Academy of Magical Arts.

The audience actually gasps during the sleight-of-whatever pulled by Kevin James (aka The Inventor), a burly man who looks like he wandered in from a road company of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He seemingly turns a doll into a walking, talking midget, and later appears to have truly sawn a man in half and stapled him back together. Both of these “numbers” involve a slew of attractive back-up dancers/ensemble members who add color to the stage, but little else. However, I really loved his final trick, a much simpler one that is ideal for the holiday season.

Dan Sperry (aka The Anti-Conjurer), a scary-looking tattooed dude who appears to have run away from a Metallica concert, starts off simply if eerily with a bit involving dental floss, a Life Saver and his neck in the first act. He opens the second act by engaging an audience member (and trust me, there’s a lot of audience participation to go around) in a rather silly and prolonged variation of Russian Roulette, before dazzling us with a more traditional feat that should be set to Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” (There is an onstage band and DJ to help provide music, but they chose something else entirely).

Italy’s Adrian Basso (aka The Escapologist) certainly deserves kudos (or a psychiatric examination) for performing Harry Houdini’s terrifying “water torture cell” escape in full view of the audience, but there’s way too much jibber-jabber (and more audience participation) preceding him getting into the tank. (As with every stunt, there’s a large center-stage video-screen that provides up-close viewing for those sitting upstairs or in the back of this vast house.)

Similarly, when the utterly silent Belgian-born Aaron Crow (aka The Warrior) takes on some new-age version of the old William Tell-and-the-apple bit alongside a married couple, this so-so stunt seems to go on forever, although you can easily spend a minute or so simply admiring the stunning coat provided by costume designer Angela Aaron.

Fortunately, the show contains some much-needed comic relief in the form of the amiable Adam Trent (aka the Futurist) who is particularly charming bantering with an on-stage youngster who joins him for one of those really mystifying, old-school card tricks, and especially, Jeff Hobson (aka The Trickster), an ultra-flamboyant middle-aged man (think Liberace times 12) who really knows how to entertain the crowd, even if his magic skills are of the simplest variety. Hobson knows how to make time move swiftly, which can be the greatest illusion of all in this show.


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