The Illusionists: Live from Broadway - Theatre Review

The Illusionists: Live from Broadway - Theatre Review

Professional magic is serious business. 

Magic is a highly competitive field, with performers jealously guarding their techniques and participating in high-stakes competitions. There’s intense self-promotion and branding and a kind of swaggering machismo in this very male-dominated art form, and if I asked you - quick! - to name a modern magician/illusionist, I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that the first person that came into your head was Criss Angel, better known for his broody, Goth-y persona than for sunshine and lollipops. 

It was a pleasant surprise to me, then, that The Illusionists: Live From Broadway was so much fun. Seven headliners give us a solid evening’s worth of pure entertainment, doing acts that have very different definitions of what “magic” is. The feeling that links them all, though, is amazement - a pure, exhilarating rush of OMG what did I just see? that far too many adults are missing in their lives. The audience was a mix of magic newbies and dedicated fans, but all of us participated in the same delightful suspension of disbelief.

As you approach the Princess of Wales Theatre, you’ll notice the abundance of promotional material for the show, mostly atmospheric pictures of seven men that could be Doctor Who (quirky suits, funky hair, guyliner,  and so many frock coats. Never let it be said that magic isn’t the most flamboyant of the stage arts). Once settled in your seat, though, you’ll find that many of the performers have a very warm and engaging stage presence. Darcy Oake, who goes by the stage name of The Grand Illusionist, has a very hard-rock aesthetic - leather, tattoos, driving electrical guitar solos - but in one of the most delightful moments of the show, he came down to the front row and made a card appear inside a bottle for an astounded ten-year-old. The glee he took in her obvious wonder made it clear that Oake is still a geeky kid from Winnipeg fascinated by his dad’s card tricks. (Then he made a motorbike appear out of literally nowhere, so perhaps the rock-star analogy is still a good fit for him.) 

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