‘The Illusionists-Witness the Impossible’ at The Kennedy Center

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The Illusionists – Witness the Impossible, now playing at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House, is not your typical abracadabra magic show, and when you leave after the show is over…you will most likely ponder,” Is what I saw even possible or believable?”

Yu Ho Jin. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center

Yu Ho-Jin (The Manipultor). Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center

Certainly, this experience a does NOT fall under the category of Peggy Lee’s song – “Is That All There Is?” Using one adjective for each of the seven magicians, there’s a lot of incredible, extraordinary, miraculous, fascinating, electrifying, enchanting, entrancing TALENT in this production.

The evening’s stars are billed as the top seven magicians in the world, namely Andrew Basso (The Escapologist), Aaron Crow (The Warrior), Jeff Hobson (The Trickster), Yu Ho-Jin (The Manipulator), Kevin James (The Inventor), Dan Sperry The Anti-Conjuror), and Adam Trent (The Futurist).

Combining movies and theater, The Illusionists utilizes a huge screen behind their actions. Live cameras follow the actors into the audience providing continuous video close-ups of what transpires both on and off the stage. I initially believed using a camera and screen might negatively impact the performance, but I soon realized that it added to my emotional spectrum of – frustration, acceptance, amazement, and wonder.

Designer Paul Miller deserves special mention for his skills in lighting this extravaganza that really enhanced the spectacular set and action. Providing live acoustic music, the Z Band, (Eddie Cole, Dustin Moore, Tom Terrell, Andy Meixner and Jody Giachello), adds to the show’s intensity and sizzle. A production of this nature involves many high-tech specialities and they are all successfully employed by Director and Choreographer Neil Dorward.

Throughout the evening, the audience not only watched but also became an important part of the show. They were cajoled by the magicians and constantly asked to join the performers on stage, which added realistic validation to each magical experience. There was so much to experience that we were forced to eventually accept the inability to adequately digest it all. We were exposed to canes changing into other objects, magical snowflakes, and animated cut-up torsos.

There were fascinating card tricks by Yu Ho-Jin, Aaron Crow doing amazing things with apples and arrows and Kevin James’ magical tricks with paper and roses.

James Hobson. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

Kevin James (The Trickster). Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

And it was fun watching Jeff Hobson’s audience volunteer become a magician as she takes orders from Jeff, who patiently gives magic directions from her seat, and then watching her produce something magical appear in an empty bag.

This review would be incomplete without the mention of Andrew Basso’s reenactment of the Houdini Chinese Water Torture Cell right before intermission. What made the experience even more diabolical, (as the clock counted the number of seconds Andrew was underwater upside down and secured by handcuffs on his arms and legs), was the collective audience nervousness as we viewed the escape process from the uncovered tank both live and on screen. This part of the show alone should be enough to motivate you to get your act together to travel to The Kennedy Center before the 7:30 PM last show this Sunday night, before The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible disappears.

Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, with one 15 minute intermission.

The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible plays through January 11, 2015 at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 467-4600, or purchase them online. 

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