When I was a kid, enthusiastically attending every show on Broadway, I never would have predicted that, in the new millennium, theaters on The Great White Way would be home not just to great plays and musicals, but to rock concerts, concept albums, and novelty acts. Ok, so obviously I’m not a psychic, but that’s the current trend, and British mentalist, illusionist, Oliver Award-winner, and Netflix star Derren Brown is now making his Broadway debut in a limited engagement at the Cort Theatre with Derren Brown: Secret, following its sold-out Off-Broadway run in 2017, at the Atlantic Theater Company.
Per the title of the show, reviewers have been asked not to reveal any, so suffice it to say that the mind-blowing experience, created by Brown and Directors Andy Nyman and Andrew O’Connor, is indeed theatrical and dramatic. And though I’m not at liberty to discuss the specifics of Brown’s performance, I can say that, while I can keep a secret and there are no spoilers here, it is guaranteed that “Your secrets aren’t safe with him.” The show is integrally dependent upon audience participation – as both members of the entire house and as willing individual volunteers – so be prepared to get into the act, if you have in mind an up-close-and-personal foray into Brown’s mesmerizing world.
Aside from the talents of discernment, persuasion, distraction, and craftiness that he displays in a series of increasingly complex and perplexing segments, Brown is a natural showman who commands the stage (scenic design by Takeshi Kata) and spotlight (lighting design by Ben Stanton) with his direct-address repartee, autobiographical anecdotes, and laughingly risqué observations about his subjects. He jokes, taunts, teases, and enthralls the audience, employing everything from the traditional skills and stylings used in the historic heyday of mindreading and magic to the latest advances in multimedia presentation (projection design by Caite Hevner), all within the context of his stated theme of taking “a closer look at the stories and beliefs that guide our lives.”
While Derren Brown: Secret isn’t your traditional Broadway fare, it is a uniquely entertaining experience that will leave those susceptible to the artistry and artfulness of suggestion and illusion dazzled by what he does and how he does it, and those skeptical about his feats of “psychological magic” and sleight-of-hand determined to figure it out. If you want to know the eponymous secret and how it’s revealed, go see for yourself; I can say no more!
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 20 minutes, including an intermission.