Broadway’s Marquis Theatre, which in recent years has housed Vegas-style shows for limited holiday-time runs such as “Donnie & Marie” and “Il Divo,” is now playing host to “The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible,” where an ensemble of seven male magicians performs sleight of hand tricks and physical stunts over the course of two hours.
The Broadway engagement is part of a 30-city national tour which commenced last month and continues through next year.
While the special effects are certainly impressive in a “how’d he do that?” sort of way, “The Illusionists” is further amplified with live electronic music, light patter, audience participation, plenty of smoke and a large and looming television screen above the performers on which they are being simultaneously filmed.
Each of the magicians has his own title and personality profile. Take, for instance, Dan Sperry, who is known as “The Anti-Conjuror” and is described in a press release as “Marilyn Manson meets David Copperfield,” as seen in his gothic attire. There’s also “The Manipulator,” “The Futurist” and “The Escapologist,” among others.
They all engage in quite a lot of posing, as if they were at a photo shoot for a fashion magazine.
In addition to a Houdini-inspired act one finale where a handcuffed magician escapes from a locked water tank, as well as a body sliced in half, the show is filled mainly with small-scale card tricks, forcing audience members to watch close-ups on the video screen and removing them from the live nature of the event.
Although it’s unapologetically cheesy and questionably designed, this is likely to thrill magic enthusiasts and many others. At my performance, I happened to be sitting in front of the most worshipped musical theater songwriter in the world, and it was very obvious that he was really enjoying it. If it’s good enough for Sondheim …
If you go: “The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible” plays at the Marquis Theatre through Jan. 4. 1535 Broadway, ticketmaster.com.