'The Illusionists' at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts

'The Illusionists' brings cutting-edge magic to San Jose
The Illusionists NOW YOU SCREEN ME: Adam Trent, a.k.a. 'The Futurist,' dazzles with tech-oriented tricks in 'The Illusionists'

Make no mistake. While a rabbit may ultimately be pulled from hat at next week's South Bay debut of The Illusionists, the program is a far cry from any kind of traditional magic show. Mixing Broadway production value with flashy, Las Vegas style, The Illusionists is a non-stop, head-spinning roller coaster, which aims to set a new standard for big-budget stage magic.

The production features an international ensemble of seven magicians—hailing from places as diverse and far flung as South Korea and Italy—each with their own specialty and flair. The performances range from extravagant, death-defying Houdini-esque stunts to technologically oriented head-scratchers. The show comes to San Jose after a successful Broadway run.

The septet of magicians comprising The Illusionists' cast perform under telling monikers: The Anti-Conjuror (Dan Sperry), The Warrior (Aaron Crow), The Futurist (Adam Trent), The Inventor (Kevin James), The Trickster (Jeff Hobson), The Escapologist (Andrew Basso), and the Manipulator (Yu Ho-Jin). Each bring his own style and magic expertise to the group. The Warrior, for example, employs weapons, such as bows and axes into his stunts, and never speaks a word. The Anti-Conjuror combines an austere, and eerie aesthetic with shocking tricks.

Each of the Illusionists are esteemed performers in their own right. Most, if not all, have undertaken personal magic tours, made numerous television appearances, and won multiple international magic competitions. Just last year, The Manipulator, Yu, was awarded Magician of the Year by the Academy of Magical Arts. James, a.k.a. the Inventor, is credited with developing a compendium of tricks—including David Copperfield's the "Floating Rose"—and is widely regarded as one of the most innovative magicians and illusionists of his generation.

The Futurist, magician Adam Trent, takes his talents to a level that seems impossible. He jumps in and out of giant LED screens, sometimes pulling items from the displays. During parts of his act he wears a head-mounted Go-Pro camera. Trent explores and tests the very boundaries of illusion. "Its kind of blurs the line between what is digital and what is real," he says.

Like the other Illusionists, Trent has his own singular approach to magic philosophy—and more importantly to showmanship. Reared in the brutal world of Los Angeles street-performing, Trent understands the importance of being an entertainer, regardless of technical acumen: "I can be doing the best trick in the world, but people will walk away if it's not entertaining."

The production values of the show also allow the magicians to realize their acts in ways many weren't able to accomplish before. Unlike, say, a one or two-man magic show, The Illusionists' multimillion dollar budget allows for a completely different level of capability and inventiveness.

"This is a full-size touring Broadway production so the capabilities of the effects are grand," Trent says. "To have a production of that size is very rare for the field of magic."

Explosions, teleportation, straightjackets and sleight of hand—the show's organizers promise that such feats will seem conventional when compared to the sheer size and ambition of The Illusionists.

Most of the performers in the ensemble have worked with each other in some capacity hitherto the creation of the big show. One stirring example: James, The Inventor, was a childhood inspiration for fellow Illusionist, Trent. "Growing up as a kid into magic, Kevin James was the guy and still is," Trent says.

Employing seven of the top working contemporary magicians from around the world, with a multimillion dollar production design, and a refreshing approach to presenting magic to the general public, The Illusionists has already broken Broadway box office records. At this rate, with at least a year of scheduled dates, Trent says he is hoping The Illusionists will become something of a magic institution. At the very least, he insists, the show will amaze San Jose audiences.

The Illusionists

Jun 9-14, 43-$118

San Jose Center for the Performing Arts

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