Showing posts with label The Illusionists. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Illusionists. Show all posts

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Illusionists @ The Kennedy Center -Review

I just returned home from seeing The Illusionists at the Kennedy Center. I can tell you that this show was one of the tightest, most professional shows I've ever seen. Every act was top notch. Every act was different and unique in their own way. The transitions between acts were well done. The live music that is used is such a big selling point. Live music adds a dimension to a show that recorded music just can't capture.

The show opens with sort of a pre-show routine with Adam Trent and a member of the audience. Not really the kind of opening I expected but for a lay audience they loved it. He followed this up with something that totally caught me by surprise, and I loved it and I'm not saying what it was. After this, the show actually begins.

If you've seen clips of the show, basically the opening is each act doing some quick magic routine one after the other. This is solid, eye candy magic, one visual effect after the other. They even introduce Andrew Basso by lowering him from above the stage in a straightjacket. Wonderful opening!

At this point, I think Jeff Hobson took the stage to do a solo routine. Jeff Hobson is not only one of the strongest acts in magic, he is one of the strongest acts in show business. Jeff, in my opinion, should be a house hold name, he is THAT funny. He simply destroyed the place.

I believe Dan Sperry was up next doing a routine he did on Americas Got Talent. He did the routine silently and with a big screen projector behind him capturing the magic for folks that were sitting further away. Dan performs as The Anti-Conjurer. He has such a clever twist on magic and presentation. I always enjoy watching Dan perform but I think I enjoy watching the audience react to Dan's magic even more. He is odd looking, even scary, and yet he is the one that many people gravitate to after the show. He wins everyone over with his killer brand of magic.

I think Aaron Crow was up next. He performs as The Warrior. I saw Aaron perform at Magic LIVE
and he scared the sh*t out of me. No kidding. I couldn't believe that Stan Alan let him do the act he did at Magic LIVE. It seemed like Lawsuit Central to me. So what did he do here? Same act. I honestly can't say if what he does is a trick or skill, I don't know. I do know that watching him perform this act at the Kennedy Center, I absolutely loved it. His character in Vegas was very serious as I recall. Here, it's kind of serious, but playful at the same time. That playful friendliness takes the edge off a really scarey act. It's STILL UNREAL! It's still breathtaking, and it's still unbelievable. Go see it for yourself. I thought it was incredible. And I wont' say what it is, you've got to experience it for yourself.

The Manipulator was up next. This is Yu Ho-Jin from South Korea. He was awarded Magician of the Year by the Academy of Magical Arts. And he is a past FISM Winner. Let me preface this by saying that I am a Chavez Graduate, which means I went to school to learn the art of manipulation magic. Yu Ho-Jin is a manipulator. I have no freaking idea how he did what he did. That was the most mind boggling card manipulation act I have ever seen. The greatest part about the act, it totally caught this audience by surprise. I could tell, they had never witnessed this kind of magic before and they were collectively blown away. He was tremendous.

Next up was my friend Andrew Basso from Italy. Andrew is The Escapologist and performs a full view Water Torture Cell. Andrew and I are both students of Steve Baker the famous escape artist. Steve Baker always had a very striking personality, very commanding presence on stage. This is a common trait among escape artists. But Andrew has a very different personality. He is humble and likeable and genuine. You want to root for this guy. You are concerned about him. When he goes into the tank of water, handcuffed, you fear for his life. The audience is on his side the entire time. His version of the Water Torture Cell is first class all the way. Andrew is a fantastic talent and the art of escapology is in good hands with him. Though I had nothing to do with his act, I must admit I was very proud of his performance. Steve Baker would be proud too.

And that was the first half, for the most part. I think I may have left off something but you get the general idea. The first half was tight tight tight. It ended with the thunderous applause of Andrew's escape from the Water Torture Cell. Frankly, if the show was over at that point it would have been worth the ticket price. 


Yep, there was still a second half to the show! I don't recall the order, but Dan Sperry opened with a very funny and well done Russian Roulette routine.  I think Keven James followed with what might be the best sawing a person in half illusion. By the way, Kevin was in the first half as well, I forgot to mention. I don't want to say what he did in case you see the show. It was awesome though. Kevin James always delivers original and awe inspiring magic.

In fact, I'm not going to say much about the second half except it was just as strong as the first half and featured some really amazing magic. I really enjoyed Adam Trent's act with the jumbo screen, incredible stuff. And speaking of Adam Trent, he does an opening illusion early in the show which is sort of a high tech variation on an older principle that rocks! He is a very likeable performer with a wide range of abilities. His 'futuristic magic' is fun because it's so outside the normal kinds of things you see illusionists do. But in regards to the second half, I simply don't want to go into detail because I don't want to spoil it for you if you attend. The simple truth is, the second half is as rock solid as the first.

The show is in town until Saturday January 11th and then it heads to Dayton Ohio. They are on a 30 city tour across the United States wrapping up in late June. Then in September they head BACK to Broadway.

Magicians in the D.C. area. GET OFF YOUR BUTTS and go see this show. I only saw one magician in the audience, and the reason I knew he was a magician was because he wore a rabbit and top hat t-shirt and his magic coat with his business name on the back. Do yourself a favor, if you attend, dress up, this is the Kennedy Center after all. There are still tickets available for all the remaining shows. The show we attended looked mostly sold out, which was nice. The show ended with a standing ovation and a well deserved one. I think it is very very important for the magic community to support these types of shows. I have said this before and I'll say it again, we are lucky to have shows of this nature traveling the country. It's been many many years since a traveling illusion show came to town. It's so refreshing to see a top notch show and even more refreshing to see an audience of 21st Century lay people totally mesmerized by good magic. The Platinum Age of Magic is in good hands!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Platinum Age of Magic

We have all heard the term Golden Age of Magic. I'm not really sure if there is a true beginning and ending to the Golden Age, but my guess would be 1890-1930. This is when magic really took off. Kellar, Houdini, Thurston, Blackstone, Dante and others ruled the stages.  After 1930s, magic certainly continued but with the death of Vaudeville and the advent of movies and TV magic lost it's once mighty place in the world of showbiz.

Magicians know that magic continued and saw the rise of different kinds of magic, the manipulators, like Cardini worked nightclubs. Illusionists like Jack Gwynne changed their acts so they could work in the round on dance floors. And of course, there was the rise of the close-up magicians with men like Dai Vernon, Charlie Miller, Ross Bertram and others. Magic was forced to adapt and it did, but with the death of the traveling illusion show, magic faded from the eyes of the general public for the most part.

In the 1970s along came Doug Henning. He is credited with ushering in a second Golden Age of Magic and I think that's true for the most part. But there were others, Mark Wilson was setting the stage before Doug and even after Doug. David Copperfield came along just at the height of Henning's fame and David continued to carry the torch. Suddenly in this second Golden Age of Magic, we had Copperfield, Henning, Wilson, Blackstone Jr., Siegfried and Roy, Penn and Teller, Lance Burton and others. That flame seemed like it was going to burn for a long time but it was put out (in my opinion) almost over night by a guy named Valentino. And once again, magic seemed to slip away from the public consciousness.

Within the magic world, things were red hot. Close-up was the big craze and it was moving leaps and bounds over all the other types of magic. Folks like Paul Harris, Michael Ammar, John Carney, David Williamson, David Roth and others were now the big stars. Just when we thought there would be no more magic on TV, some kid named David Blaine showed up and rewrote the book on magic. David Blaine, like Henning before him, ushered in a whole new style and type of magic, Street Magic. Granted it was really close-up magic, but it was close-up stripped of the bells and whistles. It was highly visual magic that was often 'in your face'. No more tuxedos, no more big boxes, no more rabbits, magic was going in a new direction.

I can't say that David Blaine ushered in another Golden Age. I think what he did was keep magic alive and change what audiences thought of magic. Magic was becoming more psychological, more mystifying, frankly more amazing. The mentalists began to rise! Sure, we know they were there all along, but now they were out on the forefront. Folks like Banaceck, Derren Brown, Keith Barry were taking magic to places no one ever dreamed. Magicians and Illusionists jumped on the mentalism bandwagon and mixed their magic with feats of mentalism.

It was during this time, I would read on blogs and in magic magazines how some thought magic was dead. Some writers felt that magic was probably on it's last legs and because of the way technology was changing, we would soon all be gone. For the record, I've been hearing the doom and gloom scenario from magicians for years.

That brings me to now, 2014-2016. I think we have hit the Platinum Age of Magic. No more Golden
Ages. Magic is burning on all cylinders. Close-up is at an all time high. Card Magic has spun off into various directions, one of which is Card Artistry and there are a ton of people, guys and girls who are dominating that arena. Stage magic is seeing a resurgence, and a fresh one. Again, magic is no longer a males only club, Alana from Germany has got one of the best and most original magic acts out there. Illusion Magic is coming back in ways I never expected. Barry and Stuart from England do comedy magic with illusions and stage props and are killing it! Topas from Germany is adding a fresh spin on everything he touches. There are 4 unique touring illusion shows right now. The Illusionists, The Illusionists 2.0, The Illusionists 1903, and Masters of Illusion. Audiences are going nuts over these shows. Standing ovations nightly. I do not think there has been a time in the history of magic when magic was hotter than it is now.

On TV, The Carbenero Effect, Wizard Wars, Penn & Teller Fool-Us, Masters of Illusion, Steve Cohen's History Channel Special Lost Secrets of Magic, and the recent HOUDINI Miniseries. That was just last year! There were even MORE TV Magic Shows in England and Europe! The MAGICIANS was huge show in England, Derren Brown's TV Specials are big hits, Dynamo is a household name in Europe because of his TV show.  I understand there is a lot more magic in the works for 2015.

The Platinum Age of Magic is here my friends. Ride The Wave and let's hope it lasts for a quite a while!

Tomorrow, I will be attending The Illusionists Show at The Kennedy Center, so expect a review in a few days.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Illusionists Open on Broadway

The ILLUSIONISTS has officially opened on Broadway. It's been a while since a big magic show has been to Broadway. David Copperfield brought is Dreams and Nightmares Show there years ago. And before him Harry Blackstone Jr. brought his show to Broadway. I guess the only one before them was Doug Henning who really started it all. Or more appropriately, Doug Henning restarted it all at the Cort Theatre in NYC with The Magic Show.

But now, rather than one man holding the stage it's Seven! And an interesting mix of magicians it is. The show includes: Kevin James, Dan Sperry, Andrew Basso, Aaron Crow, Jeff Hobson, Adam Trent,  and Yu Ho-Jin. Each has their own particular brand of magic, which is why they are described by titles such as The Inventor, The Manipulator, The Trickster and so forth.

They have been touring the WORLD for quite some time, but this is their first time in the USA. Wonder what New Yorkers think of the show? Read the review's hard to get a better review than that!

The Illusionists go on Tour of the US following the Broadway run. Check out their website for more information on tickets and tour schedule.