Friday, April 15, 2016

REVIEW: The Illusionists - Direct From Broadway

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre, Thursday April 14

I have never been to a live magic show before. When I was in London last December and passed by Shaftesbury Theatre, I thought that I should really try to see The Illusionists playing there, then I got distracted and I believe I watched a musical instead. Since they have followed me back to Hong Kong (though apparently this batch came from Broadway), I feel that it is my fate to see the show.

Through television, I tend to associate magic shows with Las Vegas and The Illusionists didn't fail in providing the big, razzle-dazzle, bass-thumping and female-assistant-running-around elements so common to Las Vegas. Even the performers’ names were too plain for the show that they were assigned monikers like "The Manipulator", "The Eccentric", "The Enigma" or "The Alchemist". 

Overall, it was an enjoyable show; but surprisingly, I find some of the more flamboyant and glamorous acts a bit stale. It was the more quiet acts that I found more intriguing. I enjoyed Luis de Matos "The Master Magician", who was also the master of the ceremonies (I was so tempted to put ""). His acts were simple, entertaining and baffling. One particular act was that all audience members were given an envelope with 4 cards featuring 4 different Illusionists. After a series of instructions like shuffle, tear them into halves, choose one and hide it in your pocket, shuffle, exchange one with the person beside you, throw away one, keep one, throw away another one... this went on until a half was only left; and amazingly, that half was the other half of the one previously hidden in your pocket!
Another act that I enjoyed was Charlie Frye "The Eccentric". This act was peculiar because it is the one act that fit more in a vaudeville act, rather than a Las Vegas-style magic show. In fact, Frye's act would fit snugly in a Cirque du Soleil show as he seriously show skills, be it comedy or juggling. Hyun Joon Kim "The Manipulator" showed fantastic sleight-of-hand tricks that made one seriously want to stop the show and ask him to do it slower again.

This show has a good mixture of tricks. There's the mind-reading, escaping, sawing-the-body-in-half and more. The Illusionists have the ability to make a Houdini out of you, an escapist of your boredom.



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