The Illusionists: direct from Broadway

Who doesn’t love a little bit of magic?

By Leeor Adar

Prepare to be completely astonished and awed, as the glamour and trickery of The Illusionists returns to Aussie shores where all the magic began. Simon Painter and Tim Lawson’s inspired production has been tantalising audiences for almost a decade, performing in 350 cities and 35 countries. It’s an unstoppable phenomenon and is as expected, a hallmark of society’s fascination with the dark and seductive grandeur of smoke and mirrors.

The Illusionists features an array of extraordinary talent, who’ve honed their skills and showmanship to mastery. Expect to see the classics: card tricks, femme fatale’s being sawn in half, a bit of the old spook and plenty of laughs. It’s a seriously family-friendly show, and children are delighted to watch and frequently be included in some of the on-stage antics. If audience participation terrifies you, this is not for you. But if you don’t mind a bit of schadenfreude at the hapless individuals who find themselves in the cross-fire of a joke, you’ve really come to the right place.

Featuring some of the most celebrated tricksters from across the globe, one can expect a little bit of something for everyone’s personal tastes.

Paul Dabek as The Trickster is our delightfully scathing master of ceremonies. Dabek’s British flair and wit make for a perfect segue into various acts, and he certainly gets the audience laughing. Humour abounds in this show, and Dabek is joined by Chris Cox as The Mentalist, whose name really lends itself to the type of humour he indulges us in. Cox is another British boss with a stellar repertoire, and his games of guessing leave the audience shaking in both disbelief and fits of laughter as well as awe for those who were subject to his astonishing mind reading.

Mexico’s Leonardo Bruno as The Alchemist is a crowd pleaser, he melts the hearts of his audience with the dancing tissue act, and tissue snow storm for the seriously smaller members of the audience. Bruno’s charm and warmth make him a highly likeable addition to the magical family.

Australia’s own, Sam Powers as The Enigma is both tempting and terrifying as he utilises his astonishing physical endurance honed by NASA technology (actually?). Powers’ execution of the flaming trap trick while being strapped upside down in a straitjacket makes for some tense moments, and I certainly had to look away. Although, don’t be fooled, these guys know what they’re doing with all the tech in the world. Considering Houdini stalked this territory long before without modern trappings astonishes me even more. I certainly wouldn’t survive what Powers can do with elegance and ease.

All the way from France, Florian Sainvet as The Manipulator gives us his science fiction flair wielding cards in a space suit. I found myself less as enthusiastic with this piece, but was later delighted by his street card trick antics and audience interaction – an area he really shines in.

At the crux of the show, Jinger Leigh as The Conjuress and her Showman husband performed by Mark Kalin, love to excite and stir the audience with their large-scale Houdini style illusions. Leigh’s saucy quality lends perfectly to her glowing ball illusion, adding an enchanting quality to the show. For myself and my partner, the most memorable moment of the night came with Leigh and Kalin’s ring trick, which has to be seen to be believed. Taking three rings from audience members, Leigh somehow managed to merge them all to our absolute disbelief. As promised, I’d never look at rings the same way again.

If anything, The Illusionists could close its show on a more grandiose scale than was provided. We were both thrilled with The Illusionists, and vowed to make a beeline for Vegas to catch more shows like this. The larger-than-life tricks, humour and pure showmanship make for an exciting few hours with these amazing performers. I highly recommend to absolutely everyone I know, whether aged 5 or 95.

The Illusionists runs for one week only at the Regent Theatre, Melbourne. Tickets are available online for Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 January or by calling the box office on 136 100. 

*Robyn Sharpe “The Warrior” was not featured in the 22 January show.

Photograph: Laura Osborne (AKA Digital)