There are no surprises that The Illusionists deliver on the promise of a stage spectacular.
From the moment the doors were opened, the Performing Arts Complex (QPAC) Concert Hall floor began to pulsate with the atmospheric beats of lively live music played by ‘number one L.A. band:’ Z (composition by Neon Phoenix @itsDustinMore) and the excitement of the audience was palpable. This band is one of those rare entities that can convince Brisbane theatre audiences to rise to their feet, en masse and willingly wave their arms around. Crowds of adults and children were in attendance for opening night, intrigued by the compliment of Steampunky tricksters who could have stepped right out of a League of Gentlemen style comic book.
What is surprising is how these seven performers were successful at making magic, well… magic again. The Illusionists is not just a showcase of tricks and sleight of hand but a high energy, highly entertaining extravaganza that has something to appeal to everyone’s tastes.
Jeff Hobson (The Trickster) is a high camp and hilarious host; a natural performer with queer wit and quick charm; he easily entertains the audience with his antics, highbrow allusions, and an old-fashioned trick or two. He’s touted as one of the most in-demand comedy magicians working today and it is easy to see why. He had us laughing until our faces hurt.
Mark Kalin (The Gentleman) and Jinger Leigh (The Enchantress) are a duo performing traditional styled levitations and Kalin also saws Leigh in half. These two are a really nice pair and the easy banter between them makes for a lovely double act. Their first levitation however is a bit lacklustre leaving them somewhat lost amongst the wow-factor of the other performers.
Kevin James (The Inventor) invents magic for the young and the young at heart. His journey started in Michigan as a wonder-struck child and it is apparent that as an adult, he takes great delight in creating that child-like wonder for others. By the finale, the audience was spellbound as he turned a napkin into snow that fell over the entire hall. It was hard not to be delighted.
Andrew Basso’s (The Escapologist) visit to the stage was brief but thrilling. His hero is (not surprisingly) the great Houdini, and he performs the infamous ‘water torture cell’. Basso is handcuffed and immersed, upside down in a tank of water; his feed shackled through the lid. Grand Illusionist, Brett Daniels introduces this feat by explaining that this isn’t about illusion or trickery but simply skill and endurance. The small statured Basso freed himself after three minutes under water while the quiet audience watched him pick several locks using a bobby-pin– how he holds all that air, is a real mystery.
The highlight of the evening was the first performance by Dan Sperry (The Anti-conjurer). Sperry’s goth-like appearance mixed with coy facial expressions is just delightful (all the while mind you, he is extracting a swallowed life saver from his neck with a string of dental floss or displaying other such macabre talents). He’s been described as the Marilyn Manson of magic, but in this first act he is more like a gothic Buster Keaton with his dark mystery and enchanting whimsy.
And finally, Brett Daniels (the Grand Illusionist); his are the big acts, the large scale disappearances and the flashy levitations. His levitating assistant was remarkable: while she was levitating, she draped herself backward, debunking the usual suspicion that she is lying on a cleverly disguised table but of all his motorcycle disappearing, propeller defying grandeur, my favourite moment with Daniels was a simple one; He explained the idea of illusions to the audience all the while casually tearing up a newspaper, only for it to appear whole again, right before our eyes.
Well-hyped television specials have long broken the code of the magicians and revealed the closely guarded secrets of how the illusion is created, it is a testament to the true seamless showmanship of The Illusionists that make you believe in magic all over again. The audience was bamboozled to the very last voila!
Mention also must be made of the Illusionist Dancers who performed under the direction of Choreographer Neil Dorwood. These interludes and accompaniments added and extra element of enchantment to the show as did the flashy stage, lighting (Mike McCain) and costume design (Angela Aaron). A little of the real Vegas has come to Brisvegas.
The Illusionists play two shows per day until 28 January at the Queensland Performing Arts Complex, Concert Hall.