Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cincinnati

The Illusionists: Live from Broadway
National Tour
Review by Scott Cain | Season Schedule


Jeff Hobson
Photo Courtesy of The Illusionists
In the last twenty years, Broadway in Cincinnati audiences have seen their fair share of non-traditional shows—ones that aren't musicals or plays, but rather present a specific artistic skill and showcase it in a theatrical context. Like Riverdance (Irish step dancing and music), Blast (drum and bugle corp), Stomp (percussion and dance), TapDogs (tap), and Cirque Dreams (circus), The Illusionists is first-rate entertainment even if not the normal touring fare. Focusing on magic, with healthy doses of comedy and danger, this straight-from-Broadway show is an enthralling and crowd-pleasing spectacle.

The Illusionists consists of seven primary performers, backed by seven dancers/assistants, performing a wide array of magic and danger skills. Jeff Hobson (The Trickster) supplies superb work as our emcee, spewing hilarious comedy bits while also performing a number of very cute and effective magic routines. He's the true star of the show. Kevin James (The Inventor) brings theatrical flair to both large and small routines—all of them winning ones. An Ha Lim (The Manipulator) is a card trick wizard (and world magic champion), producing a seemingly never-ending supply of cards from his hands. Even though the audience can see the source of a few of his tricks (thanks in large part to the video screens which show the tricks up close), his delivery and overall skill are impressive.

Don Sperry (the Anti-Conjuror) takes on a Marilyn Manson type look and demeanor (though softer for sure), and performs routines both modern and traditional (appearing birds) with great skill. Colin Cloud (The Deductionist) scores the best received acts of the show with his two "mind reading" routines. Andrew Basso (The Escapologist) replicates Houdini's famous water escape routine and has the audience on the edge of their seats. Jonathan Goodwin (The Daredevil) rounds out the stars of the show, but he isn't a magician. He shoots crossbow arrows around his very brave assistants, again raising the audience stress level up a few notches. Many of the magicians use audience volunteers to great effect as well.

Creative director Jim Millan and creative producer / director Neil Dorward have put together a varied, well-paced show. The lighting (Jared A Sayeg and Paul Smith), costumes (Angela Aaron), and other design components include elements of Vegas-style glitz, Broadway theatricality, and rock concert excitement, as does the choreography by Jenn Rapp.

The Illusionists is fun and entertaining, even for those without a specific love of magic. The talented performers, highlighted by Jeff Hobson, Kevin James, and Colin Cloud, make this a fine choice to add variety to the touring options and for audiences across the country.

The show continues at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati through March 26, 2017. For more information on the tour, visit www.theillusionistslive.com.


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