Everything Old is New Again.
The Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), foyer was a-buzz with old world glamour for the World Premiere of the 3rd incarnation of The Illusionists franchise with The Illusionists 1903. Set in the golden age of magic where the touring side-show was the highlight on the town calendar, The Illusionists 1903 complete with the vintage circus tent proscenium arch really transports you back to what you imagine it would be like in that era (except with better lighting and a projector screen).
During the opening act, I was bursting with child-like wonder, excitement, and anticipation for the intriguing evening ahead. Curiously, I also had a lump in my throat for the romantic nostalgia that I was experiencing.
The show is a mixture of awe-inspiring illusions, levitation, mentalism, slight of hand card and coin tricks, disappearing acts, dangerous stunts, skilled juggling, and some good old fashioned sawing people in half for good measure. We were also treated with the stories of where some of the tricks originated from, which was a nice addition to this vaudeville-esque variety show.
The world class Illusionists were handpicked from across the globe and included the following:
The Immortal (Rick Thomas); The Eccentric (Charlie F); The Daredevil (Jonathan Goodwin); The Showman (Mark Kalin); The Conjuress (Jinger Leigh); The Clairvoyants (Tommy Ten & Amelie Van Tass); and The Maestro (Armando Lucero).
Rick Thomas (aka The Immortal), is a master of illusion and has the accolades to prove it, including ‘Magician of the Year’ from the Academy of Magical Arts, and ‘Stage Magician of the Year’ by the World Magic Awards. Thomas provided many draw dropping moments, but the act in which a flock of doves rose from a cage of flames was truly amazing. PS. No doves were harmed in the making of The Illusionists 1903.
Jonathan Goodwin (The Daredevil) is not an illusionist, but a highly skilled (and a little crazy), stunt man and escape artist. Goodwin is perhaps the most amazing of the line-up as all his death-defying tricks are 100% real, making him the most riveting (and also the most uninsurable) of the cast. A modern day Houdini, Goodwin hangs upside-down, racing against time and a lit fuse to escape from a straight jacket before he goes up in flames. I have no idea how the producer let him do the knife trick, especially when an audience member was asked to join him onstage, because honestly, things could go very wrong.
Armando Lucero (The Maestro) amazed us with his close-up magic using cards and coins (aided by a camera and projector screen). “How does he do it” crossed my lips many times during his act, which I think is the true sign of success for a magician.
It was also lovely to see some females in the line-up this time with Jinger Leigh (The Conjuress) and Amèlie van Tass (The Clairvoyant), bringing a level of sass and elegance to the show.
For the most part I really loved this show and would highly recommend it, but I do have to admit there were a couple of moments when the sceptic in me made it hard to just sit back, believe, and enjoy the ride. It’s like the saying, that a fairy dies every time you someone utters “I don’t believe in fairies”. Does the tradition of magic die a little every time someone says, “I don’t believe in magic”? Or as you grow older is it more a case of simply admiring and respecting the skill that goes into making magic happen? Regardless of momentary lapses in belief-suspension, the overall feeling was one of wonder, awe, and “how did they do that?!” incredulity.
The creative team did a magnificent job creating the golden era with special mention to the composer for the cinema quality soundtrack, which elevated the air of mystery and intrigue during the acts.
The Illusionists 1903 is a world-class production and a highly entertaining evening for the whole family. With only a short season, playing at QPAC’s Concert Hall till January 11, I’d book your ticket now before they all disappear.