The Illusionists leave audience astounded at Stephens Auditorium


Courtesy of Stephens Auditorium

Jeff Hobson, The Trickster of The Illusionists, has made appearances on Fox Family’s “Masters of Illusion,” NBC’s “World’s Greatest Magic,” as well as various specials on HBO and Showtime.

Tanner Owens,.Com

Magic troupe The Illusionists — Live From Broadway left audiences laughing and in disbelief Thursday night.

The Illusionists visited Stephens Auditorium to convert even the largest of skeptics into believing in the power of magic. Five magicians and illusionists took the stage to perform two acts that triggered gasps and laughter all night long.

The show, while having disbelief-inducing magic tricks, was better enjoyed as a comedy show. Every member of the cast except for An La Lim (The Manipulator) had an excellent comedy aspect to their performance. The magic tricks took a back seat to the scripted and unscripted jokes from the magicians.

Before the show started, dancers from the show handed out cards with envelopes to random audience members. The voice of Chris Cox, known by his stage name The Mentalist, echoed through the theater asking those people to write something they wanted him to do on stage. They then sealed the envelopes, put them in a box and suspended the box from a rope for the entirety of the first act.

The funniest member of the show, Jeff Hobson (The Trickster), took the stage next in search of a willing, young volunteer. A six-year-old boy joined Hobson on stage for the crowd’s first dose of his quick wit, hilarious facial expressions and purposefully underwhelming tricks.

The Daredevil, Jonathan Goodwell, took the stage next with a particularly entertaining bit. A large bed of nails sat positioned at center stage, and Goodwell selected an unsuspecting member of the audience. The volunteer quivered at the revelation that she would be the one lying on the nails.

Goodwell upped the ante, taking away the bed of nails and revealing what he called a “bed of nail.” The Daredevil proceeded to lie down on a single, large nail and had the same volunteer smash a cinderblock on his stomach with a sledgehammer. The sound of the impact exploded through the theater and had people gasping all around.

The Mentalist took stage next donning plaid pants, suspenders and a bow tie that embodied his colorful personality. A volunteer, only known by the name “Hot-Rod,” was instructed to create a fashion line behind a curtain. Cox recreated the entire wardrobe without seeing “Hot-Rod,” garnering a mild amount of applause from the audience. This trick was not particularly entertaining and lacked a big wow factor that I expected from a show of this size and popularity.

However, toward the end of the show, Cox redeemed his act with a stunning trick involving the box of sealed envelopes. He claimed that people’s minds could only be read through a physical connection and licked the envelopes on the seals, much to the audience’s disgust.

He chose a woman and asked her if she was thinking of an emoji. After responding yes and being stupefied by Cox’s guesses about vacations, family and other personal details, the magician asked if the emoji in question was a smiley face.

“If I were to have a smiley face emoji shirt on under this suit, that would be worthy of a standing ovation,” Cox said, smirking mischievously.

The Mentalist’s routine ended with him revealing a smiley face emoji shirt under his suit. The crowd responded with a deafening roar and a standing ovation.

Having the biggest “wow” moment of the show led to Cox becoming a crowd favorite.

“Chris Cox was my favorite. He is so quirky, entertaining and fun,” audience member, Francesca Geis, said after the show.

The Manipulator, who remained silent during his two routines, was the least compelling of the cast. His tricks were impressive, composing of exclusively close-up card tricks, but lasted a bit too long and didn’t produce many jaw-dropping reactions from the audience. 

Darcy Oake, the Grand Illusionist dazzled the crowd next with a mind-boggling disappearing act. Oake disappeared from a large chair to reveal himself as the cameraman who was on stage the entire time filming. Multiple people could be heard asking “how did he do that?”

The most dangerous act of the night came in the form of the Daredevil shooting a crossbow at various targets in front of a bass drum-like target. The last shots involved him being blindfolded and shooting at an assistant holding a balloon over her head. There were two misses, which at the time, were disappointing.

It was all part of the plan for Goodwin as after the targets were hit, the assistant stepped away to reveal that inside the bigger target, which was very cramped, was another assistant. The six arrows had hit and missed their targets around the assistant inside the box, leaving the audience bewildered.

After routines from the Grand Illusionist, Hobson returned with more self-deprecating humor.

“You’ve seen a lot of amazing magic tricks tonight and now, I’m back,” Hobson said.

The show ended with Hobson returning the watches of various audience members who had participated as volunteers, much to everyone’s shock.

Lim returned to cap the night off with one last card trick, while the rest of the Illusionists appeared on stage from behind a curtain.

The show brought endless laughs, multiple standing ovations and plenty of world-class magic that made for a very enjoyable night. It had lulls where the tricks got stale, but the performers consistently redeemed themselves. The five magicians left the stage in a roar of applause.