‘The Illusionists’ aren’t your father’s magicians

Andrew Basso (“The Escapologist”) thrills audiences in “The Illusionist.” Photo: Joan Marcus

BOSTON – This isn’t your father’s magic show.

With the emergence of magic megastars such as David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, and David Blaine, the term magician – especially if you’re making buildings disappear – no longer seems quite adequate.

No, these modern marvels are illusionists – bigger tricks, bigger thrills, bigger paychecks.

An all-star group of them has banded together to perform some of their most spectacular stunts in “The Illusionists: Live on Broadway” at the Boston Opera House.

And while they were all spectacular, it was one of the least spectacular who stole the show.

Jeff Hobson – aka “The Trickster” – is a Las Vegas-style performer whose tricks may be modest magic, but when combined with his practiced patter of off-color and totally hilarious comic stylings, are irresistible. He comes off as a fey sort and channels Liberace with his sequins and glittering shoes and has scads of fun with the audience participants.

Jeff Hobson is “The Trickster” in “The Illusionists.” Photo courtesy MagicSpace

He also acts as an emcee as the other artists take their turn. Italy’s Andrew Basso is a renowned escape artist, reprising Houdini’s famed Water Torture Cell trick with great aplomb and effect. I don’t know the nuts and bolts of how he escapes from his water-filled cage, handcuffs, and chains, using just a paper clip, but he was visible the entire time he did it, and anybody who can hold their breath underwater for two minutes, 30 seconds – which he did Tuesday night – is pretty special.

Jonathan Goodman is not an illusionist but a daredevil who wields a deadly crossbow with deadly precision, good news for his assistants, especially when it came to the blindfolded shot.

The illusionists are also fine showmen, and that means they often have a schtick – none moreso than two of the performers.

A fellow theater critic got herself involved with a Scotsman named Colin Cloud – “the Deductionist” – who attempts to channel the great Sherlock Holmes in deducing what you do for a living as well as your birthday and other personal details.

He pulls off some other large-scale tricks that work well, too.

Then there’s the Anti-Conjuror, Dan Sperry. He’s been described as Marilyn Manson meets David Copperfield, with a Goth get-up, combining the art of magic with the macabre. He is one of the top-

10 most Googled people, thanks to a legendary America’s Got Talent appearance.

As part of this show, he will rescue an audience member’s quarter from a most unseemly place.

South Korean An Ha Lim has won magic contests all around the world; he is a card shark and then some. He brings the level of card tricks to a new level as cards appear here, there and everywhere, seemingly out of thin air .

Kevin James (“The Inventor”) does some standard sawing of folks in half with a chainsaw, but also reassembles a “little person” cut into parts and makes it snow inside the Opera House, which probably didn’t go over that well considering our “spring.”

The production values, epspecially the lighting, are top-notch, although the musical soundtrack could stand to be turned down a notch or two.

A large HD screen at the back of the stage offers theater-goers in the upper reaches of the cavernous Opera House a close-up view of the more intimate illusions.

“The Illusionists: Live on Broadway” is an excting, funny, fast-paced production, with enough thrills and head-scratching tricks to satisfy young or old.

Simon Painter, Tiom Lawson and MagicSpace Entertainment present “The Illusionists: Live From Broadway.” At the Boston Opera House, Washington Street, Boston, through April 9. Tickets start at $44. BroadwayinBoston.com.

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