THE ILLUSIONISTSConceived by Simon Painter
Dallas Summer Musicals
Director – Neil Dorward
Creative Director – Jim Millan
Choreographer – Jenn Rapp
Lighting Design – Jared A. Sayeg andPaul Miller
Sound Design – Shannon Slaton
Costume Design – Angela Aaron
Video Design – NICE Studios
Illusion Design – Don Wayne
Illusion Director – Mark Kalin
Composer – Evan Jolly
Andrew Basso – The Escapologist
Colin Cloud – The Deductionist
Jonathan Goodwin – The Daredevil
Jeff Hobson – The Trickster
An Ha Lim – The Manipulator
Kevin James – The Inventor
Dan Sperry – The Anti-Conjuror
Magic Assistants – Antonio Hoyos, Claudia James, Katie Jamie, Stephanie Potteiger, Hollie Sanford, Eddie Shellman, David Yijae
Reviewed Performance: 3/1/2017
Reviewed by Angela Newby, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The Illusionists, brought to the Music Hall by Dallas Summer Musicals, joins together seven of the world’s most dynamic performers. The magicians include Kevin James (The Inventor), Colin Cloud (The Deductionist), Dan Sperry (The Anti-Conjuror), Andrew Basso (The Escapeologist), Jonathan Goodwin (The Daredevil), Jeff Hobson (The Trickster) and An Ha Lim (The Manipulator), all of which provides a collaboration of trickery that appeals to audiences of all ages.
The Illusionists came to Dallas in 2015 and had men, women, and children, amazed at the slights of hand, death-defying stunts, great card tricks, and even some comedy to lighten the mood. Their show has shattered box office records around the world and I can easily see why. I am so glad that it has been brought back again with some new additions, and keeping the ever pleasing crowd winners!
Director Neil Dorward and Creative Director Jim Millan maximize the talents of each performer to create an interwoven masterpiece that leaves the audience with an exciting buzz and questioning, “How did they do that?”
Sound design by Jenn Rapp kept the pace and set the tone for each of the performer’s different personalities and talents. My favorite was the techno beats for Kevin James that perfectly matched his Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality. While their music varies from the beat of a heart for Andrew Basso to the classical undertones for An Ha Lim, each and every illusionist’s act was highlighted through Rapp’s sound design.
Paul Miller’s lighting design is exactly what one would expect at a magic show. Lots of bright flashes of light intermix with pitch black, while various colored sparks and lasers highlight the action on stage. Each of the acts is interspersed with amazing spotlight skills that helped point out the audience participation.
Costumes by Angela Aaron are beautifully created and completely separate the look and feel for each of the illusionists and their assistants. They nicely match each personality, especially for Jeff Hobson with his glittery shoes and tuxedo (be on the lookout for the multiple costume changes and how they only highlight his inner diva!), and Dan Sperry’s dark and edgy apparel. Aaron does an amazing job for the magician assistants’ costumes, showing stunning workmanship and over-the-top creativity to match their unique position onstage.
Each of the illusionists has a specialty that is individually highlighted throughout the show, and the focus truly is on their each technique this time around. The opening and closing acts do have the entire group of Illusionist appear out of thin air all together, but these are the only time the audience seems them as a group.
Andrew Basso as The Escapologist has only one heart-stopping trick, a reinvention of the famed Houdini water torture escape. The only difference is that this tank has no covering. Basso attempts to hold his breath for just under three minutes while he struggles to get out of all of the locks that bind him underwater. The audience was reverently in complete silence as they waited on pins and needles for him to rise above the water line. Basso’s use of death-defying tricks were greeted with awe and wonder from the audience.
Jonathan Goodwin is The Daredevil also has only one solo act in the show involving his two assistants and his amazing technical skill with a crossbow. The highlight of the show comes once he puts on his blindfold. And while this is his only solo performance, he gets much applause from the audience on a job done well!
Jeff Hobson is The Trickster and one of my favorites throughout the show. He is the Emcee of the show and truly highlights his fellow illusionist to the level they deserve. His own levels of magic are simple and so quick that they are easy to miss until much later in the show. The audience loves his bigger than life personality! While his tricks might be old school, his showmanship is perfection.
An Ha Lim as The Manipulator leaves the audiences gasping in wonder. Lim entices the audience into a magical play with about a dozen decks of cards that change colors, suits, and even become completely blank. It is his subtle movements and piercing stares that draws the audience into wanting more. He too never speaks yet says volumes through his talent. Lim produces the closing act of the show and puts on a performance that has the audience in awe as he changes the cards to reveal the cast and ends the show on a high note.
Kevin James is The Inventor who divides his time onstage between sawing people in half and showing the delicacy of levitation with help from the audience. His very different style of entreating reminds me of a mix between children’s party entertainer and a spooky inventor. James is so authentic and brings laughter and joy to the show. Yet, my favorite part is by using a young girl in the audience to help him perform a trick, and in the end rewards and encourages her to hone the skills because Magic is for everyone, young or old, man or woman!
Dan Sperry’s The Anti-Conjuror holds the darker and edgier side of the show and adds a comedic relief of the darker nature. His macabre stage persona suits him well and perfectly matches his form of magic. Sperry’s definitely has the audience grossed out more than not, but also puts on a slight of hand with birds that truly has the audience gasping in awe by the final note. Sperry’s interaction with the audience is candid and shows his true love of his craft.
Colin Cloud’s The Deductionist is the part of the show that probably had the most skeptics in the audience, me included. There are elements that make one wonder, “How did he do that?” and then stand in awe of the magic unfolding before our eyes. As the Deductionist, Cloud can read the minds of the people in the audience and those on stage. By far, his illusion in Act Two still has me reeling wondering how that worked out. I might have even tried to find the answer last night on the internet, with no luck. Trust me, Cloud is talented beyond recognition.
Be prepared for audience participation as the show relies heavily on them for its jokes, and for guest spots throughout. This form of interaction only enhanced the audience experience to gain an “insider view” of the workings of the show. Forewarning, there is some adult humor within a few of the sets.
This show is one that will not only lead to an amazing night of exhilarating performances, but you will hear gasps, laughter and a lot of “No Ways’ all around you. The atmosphere is high energy, and the Illusionist feed off of the energy in the room. Trust me; you will regret not seeing this incredible show!
Dallas Summer Musicals
Music Hall at Fair Park
909 1st Ave
Dallas, TX 75210
*Limited run through March 5th.
Tuesday - Sunday at 7:30 pm, and Saturday - Sunday at 1:30 pm.
Tickets range from $14.00 - $110.00, depending on day and performance time.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.DallasSummerMusicals.org, call them at 1-800-514-ETIX (3849), or go to The Box Office, 5959 Royal Lane, Suite 542, in Dallas. Season subscribers and other patrons who have questions about their tickets can call The Box Office at 214-691-7200.