Upon receiving the marketing materials for The Illusionists - a new multi-city magic show now playing Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre through March 22 - I couldn't help but conjure up camptacular images of '90s David Copperfield specials and Burt Wonderstone.
But, let me tell you: This show is anything but. Sure, there is a degree of cheese factor, but the kind that's delightful because it's self-aware and smartly played. There's also beauty, excitement and, most importantly, finely-tuned talent and craft.
Among the highlights from these seven wildly diverse world-class performers are Yu Ho-Jin ("The Manipulator"), whose serene and sensational slight-of-hand sends shivers, the adorable Adam Trent ("The Futurist") who charms the crowd with this futuristic trickery, and Dan Sperry ("The Anti-Conjuror"), who overcomes his goth getup with jaw-gaping visuals and zanily off-kilter audience interaction. I also enjoyed Jeff Hobson ("The Trickster") whose clever comebacks are perhaps quicker than his illusions.
Now a word of warning: If you're the kind of person who shies away from any type of audience interaction, I'd suggest you exercise caution when sitting in the first 10 rows or so. This is the kind of show where the houselights come up and people are reluctantly dragged onstage to participate. Sure, folks may be plants or pre-chosen, but I certainly felt exposed. Thankfully, all the folks selected on press night seemed to take it all in stride.
Only one moment felt a misstep in this otherwise fantastical, family-friendly evening: One of the tricks conducted by "The Inventor" obviously features a person with a disability (I won't mention which one, but astute viewers will know what I'm talking about). I'm not sure how I felt about that, especially since this person is depicted as something fearful and creepy.
That instance aside, watching The Illusionists, I was reminded of the sheer skill and artistry that goes into refining the perfect magic trick. And at the Cadillac Palace, you can see some of the world's best in a tight, two-hour performance that will certainly delight and amaze.
"The Illusionists" plays through March 22 at the Cadillac Palace.