In true Las Vegas, big-show-on-Broadway, style, The Illusionists: Live from Broadway stormed onto the Durham Performing Arts Center stage on Tuesday, Nov. 10th, with glitz and glamour, comedy and drama, and jaw-dropping effects that brought gasps from the audience. For nine performances from Nov. 10th to 15th, these multitalented magicians will thrill Triangle audiences with their special blend of comedy and fantasy and a show that truly fills the stage, both on Broadway as well as the 2,700 seats at the Durham Performing Arts Center.
The Illusionists: Live from Broadway features six illusionists chosen for this hit show for their very different talents. These guys put the cool back in magic. From the moment Jeff Hobson, the show’s emcee and comic relief, comes out on stage in an outfit that could challenge the best of Liberace’s sparkling suits, the DPAC audience realized that they were in for a night that would both amaze and delight. And the show never failed to delight, as if the prestidigitators had literally reached into their hats and brought their best tricks.
Each member of the show is tagged with a label, as if underlining the differences in their sense of magic and their fully realized specialty. The label also indicates the illusionist’s personality. For example, Jeff Hobson “tag” is The Trickster.
Enticing an audience member to “volunteer” brings the show closer to the people in the front rows, who are employed by each of the illusionists to act as assistant during their acts. Jeff Hobson sets the tone for the evening and, as master of ceremonies, is someone who brings the show to another level. A true showman, he makes fun of the volunteers in a way that makes them love it — and tickles the audience’s funny bone.
Even if you’ve been to a magic show previously, nothing prepares you for Hobson’s first introduction. Dan Sperry, The Anti-Conjuror, a YouTube sensation who is a combination of Alice Cooper and Criss Angel, takes the stage to deliver his own distinctive brand of shock illusion. There are times when he delivers a bird from a piece of fabric when you tend not to believe your own eyes. Is it a real bird? Mechanical? A pigeon? A dove? A cockatoo?
The colors change, as does Sperry’s expressive face. The illusion becomes whether or not he’s actually teasing the audience. After intermission, when the performers return to one-up themselves, Sperry conducts an illusion that is so incredibly gross, yet intensely fascinating, that you had to see it.
The Unusualist, Raymond Crowe, is a small, shy, and awkward entertainer whose special brand of magic-mime-ventriloquism endears him to the audience. He incorporates several volunteers into the firsthalf of his act, imbuing each with a hilarious voice that does not, in any way, connect with the person’s physical appearance. His sense of comedic timing is almost as intriguing as the finger-puppet shadows in the second half of his act, a shadow show with millions of online viewers.
Jeff Hobson pops in for a moment between each act, often teasing an audience volunteer with his “mental telepathy” or flipping a great card trick. Each moment elicits laughter that often becomes high shrieks of delight.
When Hobson introduces the Academy of Magical Arts (AMA) 2014 Magician of the Year, the audience meets The Manipulator, Yu Ho-Jin. During this act, the jumbo screen above him becomes the focal point, since his manipulation of playing cards is something that should be viewed in a way that the viewers don’t miss details. The cards float, flip, and change color and size, a feat that must take years of planning and practice. It is no wonder that he has a legion of international fans.
One of the oldest illusions in the world is the bed of nails, and that’s a trick that The Daredevil, Jonathan Goodwin, turns on its ear. Bringing a volunteer from the audience onstage, Goodwin quickly convinces her to lie down on the bed of nails, then changes the bed to a single nail: the nail he personally volunteers to lie on.
He’s labeled the greatest daredevil in the world, a free diver, rock climber, and escape artist; but Goodwin is more than that. He’s an illusionist who convinces the audience he can bend a wrench with his mouth.
Last but certainly not least, Adam Trent, The Futurist, proves there there’s yet another mini-genre in the field of illusion and magic. Trent merges wit and a fair modicum of dancing talent, mixes that with technology, and delivers a snazzy and original visual trick that combines magic with art and music. His video screens provide the future of illusion, hence his title.
Appropriately, The Futurist brings an end to the show, before the group returns for an encore, together on stage for the first time. Although each of these men could carry a show on his own, seeing them all on stage for one evening provides an utterly enjoyable, hysterically funny, Broadway-worthy performance that truly must be seen to be believed. The shows at DPAC will continue until Nov. 15th.
SECOND OPINION: NNov. 11th Durham, NC Herald-Sun review by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/review-the-illusionists-take-magic-shows-to-the-next-level/article_29ed11f0-88d1-11e5-b82e-43a4def9606b.html and Oct. 29th preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/the-anti-conjuror-as-a-kid-dan-sperry-freaked-out/article_87538ae0-7dc3-11e5-8ecb-3fc8ea9547a5.html (Note: You must subscribe to read these articles); Nov. 11th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh review by Jeffrey Kare: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-THE-ILLUSIONISTS-National-Tour-at-Durham-Performing-Arts-Center-20151111 and Oct. 28th interview with Jeff Hobson, conducted by Jeffrey Kare: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-TV-Jeff-Hobson-of-THE-ILLUSIONISTS-National-Tour-20151028. Nov. 11th Burlington, NC Times-News review by Rachel Teseneer for “Teens & Twenties”: http://teensandtwenties.com/illusionists-magic-show-dazzles-and-wows-durham-crowd/ and Nov. 4th preview by Rachel Teseneer for “Teens & Twenties”: http://teensandtwenties.com/the-illusionists-brings-its-magical-spectacle-to-durham/; Nov. 6th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article43466712.html; and Nov. 2nd Raleigh, NC WRAL.com preview by Sarah Lindenfeld Hall for “Go Ask Mom”: http://www.wral.com/-the-illustionists-stops-at-dpac-includes-family-matinee/15014760/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Nov. 10th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2015/11/the-illusionists-will-perform-their-mind-blowing-magic-from-broadway-to-dpac-on-nov-10-15/.)
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents THE ILLUSIONISTS: LIVE FROM BROADWAY at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11, 8 p.m. Nov. 13, 11 a.m. and 2 and 8 p.m. Nov. 14, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $35-$150. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), tickets@DPACnc.com, or http://www.DPACnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1736772.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.DPACnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
DPAC SHOW: http://www.DPACnc.com/events/detail/the-illusionists-witness-the-impossible and https://www.facebook.com/events/1575986782650983/.
THE TOUR: http://www.theillusionistslive.com/tour and http://ibdb.com/Production/View/500709.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.theillusionistslive.com/videos.
DPAC NEWS RELEASES: http://www.DPACnc.com/news/detail/the-illusionists-11-am-saturday-family-matinee-added and http://www.DPACnc.com/news/detail/nederlander-presents-suntrust-broadway-at-DPAC-2015-2016-season.
2015-16 SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: http://www.DPACnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series-2015-16.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.DPACnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14th, performance.
The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible (2014-15 Broadway magic show): http://www.theillusionistslive.com/ (official website), http://ibdb.com/Show/View/497601 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/TheIllusionistsLive (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/Illusionists7 (Twitter page), and https://www.youtube.com/user/theillusionistslive (YouTube).
The Illusionists: Live on Broadway (2015-16 Broadway magic show): http://www.theillusionistslive.com/broadway (official web page), http://ibdb.com/Show/View/501250 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/TheIllusionistsLive (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/Illusionists7 (Twitter page), and https://www.youtube.com/user/theillusionistslive (YouTube).
Jonathan Goodwin (The Daredevil) (specialty: dangerous stunts): http://www.jonathan-goodwin.com/ (official website), http://www.theillusionistslive.com/performers/the_daredevil (tour bio), http://ibdb.com/Person/View/501235 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3057098/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/JonathanGoodwinOfficial (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/Dangerman (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Goodwin_%28escapologist%29 (Wikipedia).
Jeff Hobson (The Trickster) (specialty: comedy magic): http://www.jeffhobson.com/ (official website), http://www.theillusionistslive.com/performers/the_trickster (tour bio), http://ibdb.com/Person/View/497611 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1078608/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/JeffHobsonOfficial (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/THEjeffhobson (Twitter page).
Adam Trent (The Futurist) (specialty: technology illusions): http://www.adamtrent.com/ (official website), http://www.theillusionistslive.com/broadway/performers/the_futurist (tour bio), http://ibdb.com/Person/View/497615 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2258604/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/adamtrentmagic (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/AdamTrentMagic (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Trent (Wikipedia).
Yu Ho-Jin (The Manipulator) (specialty: manipulator of mystery and wonder): http://www.hojinyu.com/ (official website), http://www.theillusionistslive.com/performers/the_manipulator (tour bio), http://ibdb.com/Person/View/497609 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://twitter.com/magicianYu (Twitter page).
Raymond Crowe (The Unusualist) (specialties: mime, shadow puppetry, and ventriloquism): http://www.raymondcrowe.com/ (official website), http://www.theillusionistslive.com/broadway/performers/the_unusualist (tour bio), http://ibdb.com/Person/View/501234 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2935510/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/RaymondCroweUnusualist (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/RAYMONDCROWE (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Crowe (Wikipedia).
Dan Sperry (The Anti-Conjuror) (specialty: shock illusions): http://dansperry.com/ (official website), http://www.theillusionistslive.com/performers/the_anti-conjuror (tour bio), http://ibdb.com/Person/View/497610 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3223164/ (Internet Movie Database), http://facebook.com/dansperryofficial (Facebook page), http://twitter.com/dansperry (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Sperry (Wikipedia).
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater, music, and dance reviews. She is also a writer, editor, writing coach at Reno’s Literary Services of Durham. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.blogspot.com/ and http://poetryandgardening.blogspot.com/.