Magic is back on Broadway for the fourth holiday season, as the Vegas-style revue The Illusionists – Magic Of The Holidays returns for its annual razzle dazzle. Joining the five-magician touring show this time around is America’s Got Talent 2018 winner Shin Lim, whose close-up style remains a thing of elegant beauty whether or not you’ve already seen it on TV.
The limited engagement – playing at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre through Sunday, December 30 – is a new installment of the production, with returnee Adam Trent both performing and serving as emcee. Trent, who stars in his own Netflix series The Road Trick, is billed as “The Futurist,” a title that has nothing to do with predictions and everything to do with his very clever use of video projections: He seems to move in and out of the footage as if bringing the images to life.
Each performer has a specialty of sorts, and all are very good at what they do. The overall approach will be familiar to anyone who watches programs of the Got Talent ilk – fast moving, flashy visuals, loud music. Only thing missing is Howie Mandel – at least in person: Clips from the show occasionally pop up on large video screens.
Perhaps the production’s greatest trick is that it never feels like a rip-off or a TV show padded out for Broadway prices. Even Shin Lim’s close-up card tricks play well.
Kid-friendly, The Illusionists can seem a bit hokey at times – there’s certainly none of the intellectual musings of a Derek DelGaudio show or meta post-modernism of Penn & Teller – and some of the tricks, though never less than well performed, aren’t exactly new. A motorcycle appears out of nowhere for Darcy Oake, like those tigers did for Siegfried and Roy.
Oake, buff, tattooed and shaven-scalped, is billed as “The Grand Illusionist,” specializing in the big Vegas approach to magic, with escapes as impressive as they are splashy. Colin Cloud, “The Deductionist,” pulls off the mind-reading stunners – names of audience members, birth dates, what celebrity someone is thinking of – with a comic panache (he calls his feats psychological, “not psychic,” although his description might well be a plausible diversion. For what is anybody’s guess).
Only “The Sorceress” Chloe Crawford (Britain’s Got Talent) falls a bit short, her razor-blade-eating bit familiar in various forms (needles, usually) and other performers (Teller, Houdini and Chris Angel, for starters). Crawford does a neat string-through-her-neck thing, but the overall gist has a been-there-seen-that feel.
Dance group Light Balance – outfitted in neon-like LED suits – make for an entertaining palate cleanser, though one performance would have been fine, as the second adds little to the surprise.
The Illusionists – Magic Of The Holidays (be warned – there’s little actual holiday content) is directed and choreographed by Neil Dorward and presented by Simon Painter, Tim Lawson, MagicSpace Entertainment and Kilburn Live.