The Illusionists – Turn of the Century review at Palace Theatre, New York – ‘only likely to appeal to magic addicts’
For its third annual holiday appearance on Broadway, The Illusionists, a variety showcase for a rotating group of magicians and stunt performers, has a new subtitle, Turn of the Century, which feels like an attempt to spin overly familiar acts as vintage classics.
Mark Kalin, dubbed The Showman, saws his assistant in half, Rick Thomas, The Immortal, makes fluttering white doves appear and disappear, the Clairvoyants Thommy Ten and Amelie van Tass tell audience members what card they have just chosen and when they were born, and Charlie Frye, the Eccentric, does some juggling.
These are pros who travel the world, but the Palace hasn’t been a vaudeville house since 1929; its more natural inhabitants now are the just-ended An American in Paris and the soon-to-begin Sunset Boulevard. Neil Dorward’s production sits awkwardly in the space.
The line-up also includes Justo Thaus, aka The Grand Carlini – who executes some equally antediluvian tricks involving a little red ball but at least does it using marionettes – and Jonathan Goodwin, who is dubbed the Daredevil, and during the course of the show hangs by his teeth from a rope that’s been set on fire, while his hands are handcuffed behind him, then lies down on a protruding foot-long nail while an audience member pounds a concrete block on his chest with a sledgehammer, before snapping off a flower in another theatregoer’s mouth, using a bullwhip, while blindfolded.
Goodwin makes a point of saying he’s not an illusionist, and that everything he does is real, but even he doesn’t have the magical power to make the 150 minutes go faster.