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Conceived by Simon Painter

Dallas Summer Musicals

Director – Neil Dorward
Creative Director – Jim Millan
Choreographer – Neil Dorward
Lighting Design – Paul Miller
Costume Design – Angela Aaron
Video Design – Darrel Maloney
Illusion Design – Don Wayne
Illusion Director – Mark Kalin
Composer – Evan Jolly

Andrew Basso – The Escapologist
Aaron Crow – The Warrior
Jeff Hobson – The Trickster
Yu Ho-Jin – The Manipulator
Kevin James – The Inventor
Dan Sperry – The Anti-Conjuror
Adam Trent – The Futurist

Magic Assistants – Victoria Chimenti, Robert Coglitore, Todd Hampton, Edward Purnell Hawkins, Antonio Hoyos, Claudia James, Rachael Joy, Kendrick Samuel

Band – Z

Reviewed Performance: 4/8/2015

Reviewed by Angela Newby, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Magic has always appealed to people, young and old. It’s always the amazement and awe as we wonder how the rabbit came out of the hat, or how they always find the correct card. Then there are the more daring and risk-taking acts of cutting a person in half or getting out of a strait jacket while hanging upside down. And when you include all these magical illusions and more into one event, the stakes for amazement certainly go up a notch or two. The Illusionists, brought to the Music Hall by Dallas Summer Musicals, joins together seven of the world’s most dynamic performers. And while you won’t get any insider answers to their secrets during the show, you will most certainly be entertained and awed.

The magicians include Kevin James (The Inventor), Adam Trent (The Futurist), Dan Sperry (The Anti-Conjuror), Andrew Basso (The Escapeologist), Aaron Crow (The Warrior), Jeff Hobson (The Trickster) and Yu Ho-Jin (The Manipulator), all of which provides a collaboration of trickery that appeals to audiences of all ages. Be prepared for death-defying stunts, great card tricks, and even some comedy along the way!

The Illusionists had a highly successful holiday run on Broadway this past year and Dallas is one of only twenty cities on their US tour. Their show has shattered box office records around the world and I can easily see why.

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?”

While all the magicians are amazing at what they do, it is the band Z that keeps the pace and sets the tone for each of the performer’s different personalities. While their music varies from the beat of a heart for Andrew Basso to the classical undertones for Yu Ho-Jin, each and every illusionist’s act was highlighted through Z’s musicianship.

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.

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, 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, but the opening set is fast-paced to present the enormous talent of all the illusionists and the crew.

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 over 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.

Aaron Crow as The Warrior also has only one solo act in the show involving a married couple in the audience and his amazing technical skill with a bow and arrow. His complete silence only enhances the suspense of what is to come. 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. His flamboyance is only highlighted by his knowledge of the DFW area. The research pays off and the audience loves his bigger than life personality! While his tricks might be old school, his showmanship is perfection. Forewarning, there is some adult humor within his sets.

Yu Ho-Jin as The Manipulator steals the show and leaves the audiences gasping in wonder. Ho-Jin 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.

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. He reminds me of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, showing two different magical personalities with each act, splitting between a children’s party entertainer and a spooky inventor.

Dan Sperry’s The Anti-Conjuror holds the darker and edgier side of the show and appears multiple times. His macabre stage persona suits him well and perfectly matches his form of magic. In his broken bottle trick, audience participation really makes the set. Sperry ad-libs more than time allows, so that he has to rush through some of the trick, but it was in those ad-lib moments that his true performer personality comes alive.

Adam Trent’s The Futurist is a friendlier magician with a boy-next-door feel. He starts the show using sleight of hand, using some old-school card tricks. The reason and truth behind his title is revealed in Act Two as Trent demonstrates what he believes the future of magic will be in a high-tech sequence incorporating digital video and magic. At times Trent is low key, yet quickly recovers in his futuristic magic set.

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.

I would be remiss to not mention the amazing works of the illusions that didn’t happen on stage. Jeff Hobson worked the crowd during intermission, moving through the orchestra and lower sections so as to not interrupt the show’s momentum. Dan Sperry was caught with some of the employees at Music Hall, demonstrating a few magic tricks before the show even started. There might have been others around the lobby but these were the ones that I saw and was beyond thrilled to see a less showman quality to these performers, exhibiting their true craft.

You are bound to have an amazing night at The Illusionists. Live magic performances are always exhilarating and theirs do not disappoint. You will hear gasps, laughter and even a few “No ways” all around you, but that only makes for a better atmosphere in which to be engrossed, and a better retelling for your friends the next day!


Dallas Summer Musicals
Music Hall at Fair Park
909 1st Ave
Dallas, TX 75210

*Limited run through April 19th.

Tuesday - Sunday at 7:30 pm, and Saturday - Sunday at 1:30 pm. Additional performance on Thursday, April 16th at 1:30 pm.

Tickets range from $13.00 - $88.00, depending on day and performance time.

For information and to purchase tickets, go to, 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.