VOGEL: Marcus Center magic dazzles audiences


“The Inventor,” Kevin James, performs on tour. Photo courtesy of the Marcus Center for Performing Arts.


The Marcus Center was nearly filled Feb. 14, with members of the crowd sitting on the edge of their seats. It was the opening night in Milwaukee for The Illusionists, a seven-piece magic group, on their national tour.

To start off the show, “The Trickster” Jeff Hobson, presented a charming series of card tricks. Once he had the attention of the audience, the magician transitioned to the main event.

Each of the performers have a nickname based off of his talents.

Following Hobson was “The Manipulator,” Yu Ho-Jin, who dazzled the crowds with a unique pairing of choreography and playing card manipulation. He danced to a score as he put his nickname to the test, producing more and more cards out of thin air.

The card tricks were impressive enough, but it was Kevin James, also known as “The Inventor,” who changed the tune of the show.

He started his act with the help of a 7-year-old girl, an audience volunteer. She helped him make paper birds fly like real ones. Once he had the crowd feeling warm and fuzzy, the next illusionist brought in a dark but impressive twist.

Andrew Basso, “The Escapologist,” took the stage and informed the crowd that he would be handcuffed, both arms and ankles, and then lowered into a tank of water. He took with him only a regular paper clip. Before he went into the tank of water, Basso got serious. He told the crowd that, although there are many skeptics, he risks his life every single night and that everything he does on stage is very real. He then asked the crowd to say a prayer for him as he kissed his cross necklace and signaled that he was ready to begin.

Basso stayed very calm despite the “Jaws”-like dark music, and after just four and a half minutes, he was out of the tank and breathing. The crowd was absolutely stunned and gave him a thundering applause. With this amazing feat, Hobson returned to the stage to announce intermission.

The performances following the break were excellent, but Basso’s escape proved to be a tough act to follow.

The best competition to his inexplicable escape was certainly Jonathan Goodwin’s archery. Though the group is called “The Illusionists,” Goodwin is anything but. Nicknamed “The Daredevil,” he introduced himself and his act, which required two assistants.

One woman took the stage and held several targets in place for Goodwin. She placed balloons on top of her head and let Goodwin shoot the targets above and around her while he was blindfolded. The archer missed two shots by just a hair, proving how real the act was.

After a few moments of tense shots, he reminded the audience that he had mentioned two assistants in his introduction — the second was yet to be seen. As he was raving about this second assistant’s bravery, he opened a box into which he had shot all of his arrows. The second assistant was inside and had been there the entire act. Even with his two near-misses, the assistant was unharmed.

The Illusionists put on a very entertaining show and did not disappoint the packed theater. As expected with a magic show, some of the acts were a bit hokey. But if anything could have improved the show overall, it would be removing the cheesy soundtrack that accompanied most of the acts, which would give a more intense vibe. It wasn’t enough to ruin the show, though. All of The Illusionists were talented, but Basso stole the show with his escape and, like a couple of his arrows, Goodwin was only a hair away from the same level of captivation.