I am a sucker for magic, for the jaw-dropping, “How did they do that?” tricks and illusions that seem to defy the laws of nature and logic. There is a profusion of such stunts in The Illusionists: Live from Broadway, an Australian-born, Great White Way-branded show that is flummoxing audiences at the Kravis Center through Sunday.
Yes, there are a few sub-par sequences in among those that astonish, and the whole production would be better served in a more intimate venue so that much of what transpires would not be so dependent on giant video screens. Still, if it is magic you crave, you are bound to be entertained by the legerdemain artists assembled for your amazement.
There’s The Trickster, Jeff Hobson, a flamboyant Liberace of magic, whose groaner jokes and genial verbal abuse of audience members are the glue that loosely binds the show. There’s The Inventor, Kevin James, whose illusions are either newly devised for this production or cunning new takes on classics of magic. There’s The Deductionist, Colin Cloud, a mind reader extraordinaire. And there’s The Manipulator, An Ha Lim, whose sleight-of-hand with playing cards elevates their appearance and proliferation to a poetic art.
All four would concede that what they do are illusions, but the fifth in the cast – The Daredevil, Jonathan Goodwin – actually risks his life and limbs. For instance, he lies down on a single sharp nail, which he explains is far more dangerous than a bed of a thousand. He also does a Houdini-esque straitjacket escape, while hanging upside down and suspended over the stage, narrowly avoiding being sliced in half by a circular saw. Hey, it’s a living.
James seemingly can suspend the law of gravity, taking a piece of tissue paper and twisting it into the shape of a flower, then levitating it in air. While it is undoubtedly a trick, it is a very good one. Unfortunately, he returned in the penultimate slot of the second act to make it snow onstage, a cheesy and unremarkable theatrical effect. Haven’t The Illusionists ever seen White Christmas?
Still, most of the rest of the magic is gasp-worthy. It is easy to see why The Illusionists conquered Broadway twice and is equally successful on tour. Dressed up as the production is with smoke, mirrors and rock concert lighting, we can rest easily knowing that we are being fooled – as opposed to thinking that these guys really do have supernatural skills – but that does not make them any less entertaining.
THE ILLUSIONISTS: LIVE FROM BROADWAY, Kravis Center Dreyfoos Hall, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Through Sunday. $33-$76. 561-832-7469 or visit www.kravis.org.