I’m just going to come out and say it. I’m a whore for magic. Okay, not REALLY. But kind of. I mean, I just think it’s the best. THE BEST. It’s unabashedly flashy and funny and yeah, for some reason, it’s sexy. From the simplest card trick to the thrills of an escape act and the shameless drama; the glorious pomp and circumstance of a disappearing act, magic just gets me. Okay it’s mostly pretty dishonest. Yes, it’s totally superficial by definition, but come on… you can’t deny that it just has this amazingly liberating effect…at least it does on me. It’s creative and flamboyant and intricate and… well magical.
Enter The Illusionists – Witness the Impossible from Broadway San Jose and you have the makings of fantastic night out for the Princess and anyone who finds is a great relief to gasp the completely rhetorical exclamation of HOW DID THEY DO THAT!? That sound you hear might be my “IQ” plummeting as I just embrace the uncertainty of that line between refined skill, technical execution and what must be REAL MAGIC. Usually the first in the room to get to the internet and satiate her curiosity of how something works, when magic is at play the vast majority of the HOW gets buried very deep. Don’t ever tell me. Don’t ever show me. Just don’t spoil it. Shut you face, I don’t want to know.
There’s literally something for everyone and then some in this production. Comedy, high-tech video illusions, danger, sleight of hand, eye candy, pyrotechnics, wardrobe, audience participation, improv, unpredictability, live animals, smoke AND mirrors! Yes, there’s a smart diversity and a quick pace to this show helped along by a fantastic live rock band on stage, lighting worthy of your biggest rock concert tours and live video feeds. There’s a tremendous amount that could go wrong and ruin the illusions too, but the tech was tight overall. The production values for this show were big and loud and over the top ridiculous, truly everything you’d expect and could ever want in a magic show.
I did wish the video quality was a bit better in parts, and I do wonder if the back of the balcony was able to see well enough, but from the middle front of the orchestra it seemed to be a nice balance between concentrating on the magician himself and zooming in on the video view.
Happily, the lack of a center aisle in the Center for the Performing Arts presented NO challenge when it came to choosing volunteers; no one was “safe” from being selected to participate on stage and the interactions and ad-libs with the chosen “victims” provided some of the best moments of the night.
Certainly there were some standard tricks I’d seen before, some not so magical parts too that seemed like time fillers and the extreme cheese factor of some parts was even a bit too hokey for me, but the night was also full of honest holy cow moments, long stretches of laughing out loud and a host of seriously mad skills. I would have loved to see a female magician amongst the 7 and my two favorite magicians got slightly less time on stage than the others, but there was no lack of entertainment in this nearly 2 1/2 hour extravaganza. Even the intermission is being worked live and with video presentations.
The reality is we just don’t have big magic in Silicon Valley (which when you think about it, based on our gadgetry, sense of fun and love of geekery, should be a perfect match.) We have some phenomenal mentalists (Jay Alexander, David Gerard, some comedic slight of hand dinner magic with Phil Ackerly or Dan Chan and some unique showcases of illusions (Magique Bazaar) but The Illusionists is a great opportunity to see the kind of magic that only places like Vegas seem to usually host.
I wave my magic Princess wand and poof, 4 out of 5 magical jewels in the review tiara for a glittery, dramatic spectacle packed with plenty of fun and a plethora of genuine ooh and aaahhs. The Illusionists plays through June 14th at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.