Posts Tagged ‘the illusionists


The Illusionists: Direct From Broadway


The Illusionists: Direct From Broadway

Simon Painter, Tim Lawson, Andrew Spencer & Alexandra Hirst

QPAC Concert Hall

January 11 – 19 2019


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward



Why do people continue to come in droves to experience The Illusionists? It’s a mystery. The magic of the theatre…and savvy marketing.


Paul Dabeck, enigmatic and entertaining host and emcee of the latest incarnation of The Illusionists, direct from Broadway, is the highlight of the show, with magic tricks to amaze and lively, witty banter to amuse. I adore him. A natural entertainer of the highest calibre, Dabeck is the most down to earth of the group, with the genuine charm and good humour lacked by the others. His style is sophisticated and super relaxed, with just the right amount of spice; he’s a crowd favourite and the highlight of opening night in Brisbane. 



Every other act comes with a super-size-me serving of spray-on cheddar jack cheese, nope, not even pepper jack, just that old-school schmaltzy, sickening, pausing-for-effect, praise-me style that we thought had died out just as the rest of the circus and burlesque worlds continued to evolve, keeping only the very best aspects of vaudeville and real showmanship, as demonstrated by Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman, and Todd McKenney – I anticipate – in Barnum.


Not everyone is immune and there are just a few who leap to their feet at the conclusion of the show, having clapped and cheered at each trick much louder than anyone else – in the Concert Hall it’s more obvious than it is anywhere else – and perhaps they’re all the mates of our Aussie escapologist poster boy, Sam Powers…or perhaps they really love this strangely halting show. The American cheese bookending each act has a different impact upon most though, slowing the pace and flow of the show, and distancing us from the entertainers and their art, putting it all on a very high pedestal instead of inviting us in, seducing us, bringing us anywhere near any sort of mystery surrounding each performance, except that we’re actually so physically close to the action to notice the glitches from the outset. I seem to recall this being a disappointment last time (2015) and like the anti-climax that comes with yet another close-up magic card trick rather than a magical spectacular full company finale, I wonder why there hasn’t been since then, an assistant director or one of the producers or publicists, making the same observations aloud. These clumsy errors are quick to happen and just as quickly glossed over, swept into the shadows in an instant – if you blink you miss them – but if you catch them, it’s hard to un-see such imperfections. As is the case with any disappointment in life, our high expectations are mostly to blame, and as much as we go in ready for anything, it’s a general expectation that anything of this calibre will be fairly flawless. 



Mark Kalin (The Showman) and Jinger Leigh (The Conjuress) perform an old ring trick, using jewellery taken from the hands of audience members, and it appears to be the real deal, but like disappearing and reappearing people, we don’t look too closely at the detail. Eliciting gasps and warm applause from the audience, these illusions are a couple of the best. Leigh’s manipulation of a glowing sphere is less convincing, especially when we see it disappear beneath a black cloth, despite her showgirl eyes and smile alluding to the magical powers of the cloth she triumphantly wields in the foreground.  


The frenetic energy of Chris Cox (The Mentalist) does not endear him to everyone, but apparently the success of his act is largely due to his “side-splitting, confident, silly, charismatic and mischievous sense of magic”. It’s all very well to admit to reading behaviour not minds as the basis for a potentially entertaining and highly amusing act, but make it entertaining. And amusing. And foolproof. This act was foiled on opening night by the father who had to remind his son exactly what costume Cox had told them before the show, was what he’d be wearing beneath his suit. 


Florian Sainvet (The Manipulator) is too ridiculously good looking to be human, and this is the most intriguing part of his act. Both he and Leonardo Bruno (The Alchemist) are less than convincing. This is a shame, both for the audience and the award-winning Berlin male model types. We won’t mention the pretty female assistants at all because included in the company, are the pretty male assistants also. More clothing. Less lighting. Fewer sexy moves. Whatever. 



Luckily for our Sam Powers (The Enigma), his life or death world-first suspended escape act is a success. He even has time, twice, to pause and pose, hanging upside down by his boot straps during the 2-minute race to remove himself from a straitjacket, and then from the hooks that hold him upside down, before a burning bear trap collapses on where he would otherwise have fallen to his death. THE NEW ELEMENT BEING A BURNING BEAR TRAP. There is at least some comedy in the ridiculous.



In 2015 we saw The Daredevil (Jonathan Goodwin) hoisted upside down and left to hang by his boots too, while a fuse was lit and flames crept towards his trousers, leaving him just sixty seconds in which to get free and put out that fire. Has Powers even raised the stakes? Again, chiselled good looks saves this entertainer from too much criticism. But as part of his persona, he’s almost too relaxed, nonchalant, so that we don’t actually care very much about him while he’s dangling from a rope, apparently struggling…we’re actually confident that he’ll be fine. All in all the scene lacks tension. This is typical of each act, with a grandiose buildup doing more harm than good, and causing those around me to snicker at times, and others to yawn. You won’t see that in the pull quotes. BUT YES ABSOLUTELY WITHOUT A DOUBT SOME PEOPLE LOVE IT. And it comes as no surprise because our reality television shows are still rating highly too.


Let’s just note that the particular performance style perhaps preferred by Australian audiences within the magical realm now, or always, is less about the grandiose and more abut the genuine entertainment value. This may be about to change with all the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas (we hope not), or it may depend on which aspect of their show we’re referring to…anyway, the Americans will get a run for their play money when Brisbane’s infamous duo The Naked Magicians take up a strictly limited MGM Grand run, opening February 13 at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club. Now THAT’S entertainment!


A big, safe, shiny, eternally touring show, The Illusionists: Direct From Broadway likely won’t exceed expectations, but it’s a fun night out for the family and friends – let’s say three stars – and the shared experience will probably provide some entertaining fodder for a few days of dinner table conversation. It might even inspire a new generation of entertainers. But if you’re the type who won’t have the television on during dinner, and can’t name even one of our latest “celebrities” to find themselves stuck somewhere in Africa, you’ll agree that this impressive franchise also continues to glitter, but it isn’t gold. 


Opening Night Style at QPAC The Illusionists 1903: the golden age of magic


Opening Night Style at QPAC The Illusionists 1903: The Golden Age of Magic


This year I thought I’d let you know what I’m wearing to the theatre. I’m so often asked by friends planning for a night out at one of our live theatre venues, “What should I wear?” and of course the short answer to that is, “This is Queensland. Wear whatever you like!” But that’s not entirely satisfactory, is it?


C’mon Queensland!


So begins a series – let’s see if we can keep it consistent – to share opening night outfits and some #styleinspo


Now that I’ve given you the heads up, claim your opening night style, and if you want your pic featured here be sure to tag #xsentertainment #whatiwore #openingnightstyle on Instagram.





The Illusionists 1903: The Golden Age of Magic


Dress code: Vintage inspired dress and accessories encouraged!


Unofficial pre-show drinks & tapas: Ole Spanish Restaurant



Skirt: Cue


Top: Zara


Shoes: Joanne Mercer


Necklace: Blue Illusion


Hair: Suite Three

Styled by a week at Woodford Folk Festival


Scarves From The Vault (probs decades-ago-Myer)








The Illusionists 1903: the golden age of magic


The Illusionists 1903: The Golden Age of Magic
QPAC and Simon Painter & Tim Lawson
QPAC Concert Hall
January 4 – 11 2015


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward




Featuring brand-new, world class Illusionists handpicked from across the globe, The Illusionists 1903 promises to transport the audience back to the golden age of magic, a time when conjurers were the true rock stars of the day. Showcasing the origins of some of the greatest and most dangerous illusions ever built, the show also unveils never-seen-before experiments drawn from a treasure trove of long-forgotten mysteries.


The true art of magic will be explored in exquisite, turn of the century grandeur in this larger than life production from the acclaimed creative team behind international mega hits The Illusionists and The Illusionists 2.0. In this world premiere at QPAC audiences will discover first-hand the spectacles that transformed stage entertainment over 100 years ago.


After the weeklong magic of Woodford Folk Festival it seems apt that the first show on offer in 2015 is a celebration of old world grand magic.


The Illusionists 1903 is the newest creation of its kind from producers, Simon Painter and Tim Lawson. The third lavish instalment in the smash hit live-on-stage series, The Illusionists 1903 features some of the world’s greatest practitioners of magic and illusion. It’s at QPAC until Sunday.


Having missed the previous productions (The Illusionists & The Illusionists 2.0) I’m unable to offer a comparative study, but what I do know is this: people love the mystery and allure of magic and they keep coming to see it! With a simple formula designed to please, featuring a little bit of history and eight Illusionists, each with their own character and area of expertise, it’s a no-brainer. That’s not to say that audiences will even come close to working out how the magic is done. If we suspend disbelief and don’t look too closely we miss the clues exposed by slowly changing lighting states and slightly clumsy moves.


The Illusionists 1903 actually has something for everyone and at times it’s truly astonishing. An interesting aspect of this version though, is the inclusion of some sleight of hand “micromagic”; the card and coin tricks you’ll likely see at a party (or on the streets of Woodfordia). Only with close up real time footage shown on a suspended screen can we see what’s going on. It makes me question the validity of this form within a show such as this. Or is it a brilliant masterstroke, using the available technology, allowing us to get a glimpse of the magic when otherwise it would be missed? The Maestro (Armando Lucero) invites two audience members to join him at the table on stage, in order to witness proceedings at close hand, and it is this couple that get the best of this part of the show, micromagic being much more exciting close up.


The Immortal (Rick Thomas) confounds me, and not only because of his tricks. In keeping with his arrogant character, he states in a most confident and terrifying manner, “Woman was created using a man’s rib. Tonight I’ll take it back! It’s a little creepy. Distasteful. I cringe. Is it just me? The real question remains: how does he make the girl disappear and reappear? After the show I’m told the “secret” compartments in each apparatus can be seen if you know what to look for… “Not listening! Lalalaaaa!”




The Clairvoyants (Thommy Ten & Amelie van Tass) don’t serve the show as well as they should. Each mentalism segment is slow, giving us time to question whether or not these tricks are set up before the show, and there are too few “wow” moments. Cynical me decides they must have plants in the audience, in which case van Tass’s true talent is an incredible ability to instantly memorise and later recall in the correct order, the facts pertaining to each audience member. Is the real question though, “What does it matter?!” If that’s entertainment, it doesn’t matter. But let’s make it entertaining.


The Eccentric (Charlie Frye) boasts some seriously impressive circus skills, making him another anomaly in this line up. Though it’s not strictly magic, his vaudevillian humour and his tricks using interlocking hoops, and his balancing and juggling acts win the respect of the Brisbane audience. Sam and I argue whether or not there is more “skill” in these acts than there is in conjuring an illusion.




The Daredevil (Jonathan Goodwin) is another clear favourite of Sam’s. He gains instant respect from me due to his physique husband and father status (read your glossy souvenir program, peeps!). All around, we hear him being compared to Houdini and Johnny Jackass Knoxville.


Meanwhile, I’m wondering if his wife has ever stopped thinking yet that he might not come home after a show; that it might end BAD.


He’s not a magician, nor an illusionist. He’s an escapologist! Everything he does is for reals, kids… Don’t try it at home! Here’s the gimmick: invite an audience member to perform a classic pain threshold trick and then casually, respectfully, with a disarming smile, up the anti. Felicity, from the audience, reluctant to lie on a bed of 1000 nails, does so with the assistance of Goodwin, who explains the science behind it. I wish I’d had a science teacher like Goodwin at high school. If that were the case I may have taken Science in Senior instead of Modern History. #sorrynotsorrydad Anyway, knowing the science behind the feat now, we watch Goodwin settle on just one nail! Ouch! This guy also plays with knives… #ofcoursehedoes He plays 5-finger fillet AKA “Nerve”, which is a “game” with which a friend used to freak me out (he used a flick knife given to him by his father, which he kept on him at all times. No, not my friend anymore). Goodwin’s manner is easy going; a carefully crafted, or else completely genuine combination of Hugh Jackman effortless suavity, Richard Branson devil could care less larrikinism and Robert Downey Jnr slick tendency towards double entendre.




Later, it’s not enough for The Daredevil to get out of a straight jacket; it’s been done. But apparently this is new: Goodwin is hoisted upside down and left to hang by his boots while a fuse is lit and flames creep towards his trousers, leaving him just sixty seconds in which to get free and put out that fire. Phew! Going by the gasps in the crowd, this act has the desired effect, especially on the kids in the audience. Seriously, kids, don’t try it at home.


I enjoy the music. It’s old school, vaudeville, maintaining the salon/saloon sorta’ mood and building tension where appropriate. Sometimes it’s played live on stage… And then we recognise something from the montage in Singing in the Rain (even Rocky had a montage).





The show should have finished with The Immortal’s levitation illusion, which was short and sweet, and truly breathtaking. Instead, we went back to The Maestro’s card tricks, captured on camera and conveyed to the big screen; an anti-climax to say the least, with those uninvolved (ie the other Illusionists) posed on stage as if they were waxen figures. Awkward.


The Maestro’s insistence that we would suffer “sleepless nights” wondering about the magic left me wondering if he was for real. This is not a show that I’ll remember for the rest of my life, but it’s a great way to start a magical new year. I may be one of a handful but the truth is I don’t care how the trick is done. I’m curious, sure, but ultimately I want to be entertained, and I want to leave the theatre feeling breathless and awe inspired. With the exclusion of the The Immortal’s levitation and The Daredevil’s dramatic flames, this show lacks wow factor.


While high expectations might mean it’s not the spectacle it promises to be The Illusionists 1903 offers a genteel evening of parlour tricks, physical challenges and grand illusions. The brand lays claim to a large and loyal following, though this particular production may be better suited to a more intimate theatre and a smaller crowd each time.


If you’re a fan of any sort of magic and illusion you’ll certainly get a glimpse of it here. But only until Sunday so be quick!



The show must go on – The Illusionists 2.0


The Illusionists 2.0 

QPAC with Tim Lawson & Simon Painter 

QPAC Concert Hall

19 – 27 January 2014


Reviewed by Josh Kirwan


The Illusionists 2.0


What do you get when you mix QPAC’s concert hall with a bunch of strobe lights, confetti machines and six of the world’s top magicians all rolled into one? The astonishing production that is The Illusionists 2.0, that’s what! The unbelievable magic and the bold defiance of the conceivable laws of nature left me bewildered at the end of the show in a way that I have never felt before.


I will admit that as this was my first magic show, The Illusionists 2.0 – the sequel to last year’s smash hit – went straight to the top of my list. But in the age of the Internet, thanks to YouTube, I’ve seen my fair share of magic tricks, and the feats of The Illusionists was something to behold. With everything from card tricks to miraculous escapes from imminent death, the magicians had a little bit of everything, and they pulled it off flawlessly.


Obviously I don’t want to give anything away or ruin any of the surprises, but the show has an uncanny way of drawing you in and making you a part of the magic. It’s almost as if you become involved in the show itself. Audience engagement is one of the keys to a good performance and as with every element, these performers manage it brilliantly, though I am still sceptical of whether or not their “audience member volunteers” were just that… I suppose we are all sceptics until we find ourselves on stage with a sword pointed at our head!


Unfortunately the show was somewhat mired in an air of tragedy, due to the very recent loss in a tragic accident of one of The Illusionists. A touching message from the entire company was displayed prominently at the Concert Hall.


On Saturday 11 January 2014, our friend and renowned hypnotist, Dr Scott Lewis, passed away. He made a remarkable contribution to this world premiere production, and he is dearly missed. We dedicate the Brisbane season to his memory.


However, the show must go on. In their dedication to their friend and colleague, the magicians pressed on and put on a stellar performance.


In a very timely patriotic mention, it was good to see our Australian, Raymond Crowe, up on the stage. Some of you might recognise this Unusualist from Australia’s Got Talent. He is definitely up their with the best of them, with his funny antics and a unique spin on the typical magic show.


On stage with him was American born Futurist, Adam Trent, who used some fancy tech to show off his skills. The amazing Warrior took the art of weaponry to a whole new level and the unbelievable Deceptionist, James Moore, demonstrated his astounding high-risk tricks. The current world magic champion, Yu Ho-Jin the Manipulator, boasts unbelievable skill with cards. And of course, last but definitely not least, The Master Magician, Luis De Matos, charismatically leads the show and pulls off some amazing magic.


Together these talented men made the impossible seem like the easiest thing in the world.


The best part about this production is that it is for absolutely everyone; from young children to elderly gentlemen, everyone will love this show. If you can scrounge a ticket, catch one of the final shows before The Illusionists 2.0 closes on January 27. You don’t want to miss this fabulous opportunity to witness world-class magic in our own backyard.





The Illusionists

The Illusionists


The Illusionists

Tim Lawson, Simon Painter & QPAC

Concert Hall, QPAC

18th – 27th January 2013


Reviewed by Meredith McLean


I could talk of magic and believing. It’s all a very common trope; believing is seeing and all those sentimentalities. I could go on about how magic transports us and takes us on a journey to something we might not have imagined before. But I’m too dry for that. Magic or not, The Illusionists is a stunning show.


The whole time I was conflicted. Part of me wanted to scrutinise and deduct the secret to every illusion and trick. Some of which were easy enough to figure out. But another part of me really wanted to believe in the magic of science (something I’ll mention more of later on) and illusion. I just wanted to believe in the magicians, some of whom were more endearing than others.


I’m lying though; I wasn’t conflicted the entire time, per say. Beforehand I was lucky enough to attend with other guests, the pre-show dinner at the Rooftop Function Room at the Cremorne Theatre. I was quite content to enjoy the delicious hors d’oeuvres and a flute of champagne. There was no conflict there at all.


When the grand show did begin it was The Trickster, originally Jeff Hobson, who introduces us to what’s in store. He was consistently my favourite from the beginning until his sign off at the end. What I loved most about him was that he didn’t need some of the large-scale illusions that The Inventor Kevin James or The Grand Illusionist Brett Daniels had to offer. He reminds us great showmanship is in itself a magic trick. There was no flames, no abracadabra, but he willed an entire audience to adore him.


I would’ve liked to see more of The Escapologist, Andrew Basso in the show. His brief time on stage was nothing you haven’t heard or seen before. But his accent and biceps certainly enchanted me and the other ladies in the crowd. The diversity doesn’t end with Basso though. Jinger Leigh, or The Enchantress, was the only female figure on the team. Though she does hold her own against the boys I was a little disappointed. I expected her to have her own act but she was ultimately just the sexy assistant to Mark Kalin The Gentleman. As a duo they were fantastic and witty, their act has made the rounds on television and international tours. One of their better-known acts was making a jumbo jet disappear. Unfortunately, that won’t be seen at Concert Hall. Jinger always has a cheeky remark if Mr. Kalin steps out of line. But as I said, I was expecting something a bit more unique from her and this was not to be so.


Someone who was very unique presented us something that is becoming more and more popular at the moment. Kevin James The Inventor specializes in what is described as magic inventions and groundbreaking illusions. The man has crafted inventions for prolific magicians like David Copperfield. This is not to say he can’t hold his own on the stage. He is certainly the most family friendly of the seven illusionists. With his old-fashioned suit and gruff, southwestern accent he reminds me of a grandfather figure. Each illusion comes with a gently told story or a comedic sequence of mimes and music.


Believe me, I haven’t forgotten to mention two other performers in this troupe. Last but not least The Anti-Conjuror and The Grand Illusionist himself both have their place in this cornucopia of magic. But I feel I should say as little as possible about these two so as not to give away the shock and awe of seeing them perform. If you have seen them before then you will already be aware that they manipulate things in a way that is stunning.


I guess it’s up to you in the end. Will you watch the show with skepticism and a calculative mind? Or might you try to suspend your disbelief and have faith in magic for a night? The Illusionists is an amazing opportunity to see seven very different but highly accomplished performers together in one show. Take the chance to get back a little bit of that feeling of wonder at QPAC before the show disappears……


The Illusionists