THE ILLUSIONISTS: Witness the Impossible

The Civic – THE EDGE®, Auckland

22/05/2013 - 02/06/2013

Production Details

The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible 

Presented by Tim Lawson and Simon Painter  

The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible features seven internationally renowned grand master magicians performing a stunning mix of the most outrageous and unbelievable optical illusions including nail-biting Russian roulette, jaw-dropping acts of levitation, mind-reading, disappearance and death-defying escapes.

Prepare to have your perception of magic shows redefined as seven of the world’s greatest magicians combine to create the boldest most spectacular magic show ever staged in New Zealand.

The biggest selling magic show on earth will appear on The Civic stage in May for a two week season featuring seven world grand master magicians in The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible.

The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible launched in January 2012 with a sell-out season at Sydney Opera House reaching an audience of 31,000 in nine days, followed by a Mexico City eight-day season with an audience of 42,000. More recently the show packed out Adelaide Festival Centre and Queensland Performing Arts Centre, and will visit Auckland before a launching world tour from London’s West End.

The hand-picked cast of internationally renowned illusionists together create a blockbuster stage show featuring a stunning mix of their most outrageous and unbelievable optical illusions including nail-biting Russian roulette, jaw-dropping acts of levitation, mind-reading, This show sees the magicians take their cue from the showmanship of the great illusionists of the past – such as Houdini – and combine it with contemporary sets, costume design, technology and live band Z, best known as touring band for Hip Hop legend NaS, to create a spell-binding family-friendly blockbuster.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | 2 6 February 2013



Creative Producer Simon Painter says the show is a world first, with each of the seven international illusionists the best in their niche and together creating a 21st century stage spectacular that will leave audiences spellbound.

“From Dan Sperry’s shock illusions to comedy magician Jeff Hobson to Escapologist Andrew Basso who performs the Houdini inspired underwater escape live on stage, there is no other group of magicians who can deliver the mind-blowing entertainment that The Illusionists do at every show.

“Kevin James, The Inventor, is the man who created most of the famous illusions and tricks that you’ll see performed anywhere in the world by top magicians, and we have him bringing his favourite illusions to life as part of the show.”

Robbie Macrae, Director of THE EDGE Performing Arts Centre says that The Illusionists is a magic show like never before seen in New Zealand and another major stage show for Auckland and the rest of New Zealand to enjoy.

“We’re incredibly excited to have secured The Illusionists for a season at The Civic. We haven’t had a blockbuster magic show of this kind in Auckland before and we know that the theatricality and artistry of the show will completely astonish our audiences.”

“Brain bendingly spectacular.” The Telegraph

The Civic
Wed 22 May – Sun 2 June, various times
$74.90 – $114.90*
*Service fee will apply 

Cheesy old tricks get bold new twist

Review by Janet McAllister 25th May 2013

Magic crew use hype, skill and bombast to dazzle audience 

One big, slick, cheesy magic show promised; one big, slick, cheesy magic show delivered. If you think you’ll like The Illusionists by the look of the advertising, you will. They know what they’re doing, and they do it well. The tricks and stunts are classic rather than original but they’re still the great puzzlers. And, even at nearly three hours, the show entertains with hype, skill, personality and bombast.

It’s a dark carnivalesque jumble of sub-culture styles – punk, steampunk, goth – wrapped up in haze, adorned with fireworks and amplified on a mega-screen. There are dancers, and a band with hilarious attitude and fly glasses. [More]


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The Avengers of Magic

Review by James Wenley 25th May 2013

Magic is back? Believe it. By mixing Vegas spectacle with the romanticism of the turn of the 20th Century magic show and packaging it with an ultra-modern sensibility and pizzazz, The Illusionists is a heart-thumping feast for the eyes and trip for the mind – of a type that many Aucklanders (myself included) have never experienced before. 

That’s not to say the content itself is all new – many famous magic tropes are accounted for: doves appear from nowhere, a woman is cut in half, and a man escapes Houdini-like out of a tank of water. True to the form, it’s all about how you sell it. The Illusionists has all the bells and whistles: dizzyingly high production values, fantasy-dressed backup dancers, and an energetic live band from LA that have toured with Kayne West. [More]


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Dazzling. Amazing. Breath-taking.

Review by Adey Ramsel 23rd May 2013

I’m in a quandary with this review. After years in Cabaret and Variety myself I’m ‘in the know’ about this genre and how it works. I’m also semi ‘in the know’ as to ‘magic tricks’ and how they work. One can never ‘un-know’, and it does spoil an experience like this somewhat, while allowing me to express two viewpoints.

First I’ll deal with the show itself from an audience’s point of view. Dazzling. Amazing. Breath-taking. Unless you follow this show around the world, you will never witness again such a brilliant example of the genre, on such an impressive grand scale. That it is here in central Auckland is astonishing and every opportunity should be taken to see it.

Billed as the ‘World’s Greatest Magicians in a Stage Spectacular’, the two and a half hour show has a cast of seven expertly professional illusionists; six from the USA, one from the UK.

The actual difference between the words ‘Illusionist’ and ‘Magician’ is relative and will have everyone, if they’re bothered, racing to their dictionaries. In short, an illusionist creates an illusion of something i.e. the traditional lady sawn in half is an illusion. Deep down we know a lady cannot be sawn in half and survive but what we are presented with is an illusion of that. A magician does smaller acts: sleight of hand tricks, disappearance, transformation, creation, etc – e.g. card tricks, doves out of handkerchiefs … (This is rudimentary definition – as I say, it’s relative.)

Styled as a good old-fashioned variety show based around illusion, our seven cast members each take turn to present their own technique. Each has a pedigree such that they could fill hour after hour on their own. The examples we sample are presented with panache and grace; professional to a tee. These seven really are amongst the top of their field in the world.

Dan Sperry, ‘The Anti-Conjurer’, does a great job of freaking the audience out with his pseudo ADHD psyche combined with every mental disorder you can imagine. He provides the shock illusions that make you squirm.

Philip Escoffey, ‘The Mentalist’, is the mind reader who assures us at every opportunity that his art is all bunk. He puts it down to mind manipulation and the ability to make people believe what they want to, and he proves himself the master of it. He does this with a laid-back attitude and talent that actually makes you question his own doubt in the medium. His tarot reading stunt last night seemed to go on for a while though, padding out what could have been a short, sharp brilliant ‘trick’. His audience female volunteer gave what she could but with the abrupt ending it felt as if things hadn’t gone the way Escoffey wanted. 

Traditional double act Mark Kalin and Jinger Leigh – aka ‘The Gentleman’ and ‘The Enchantress’ – provide the classic grand scale illusions we have all seen on TV from Vegas. But staging the biggest right at the start does lead to an anti-climax when nothing bigger comes along. To avoid a spoiler, I’ll just say the ‘magical appearance’ of an object to fill the stage needs to be topped or left till later in the show. That aside, it is breath-taking and classic to the core.

My pick of the night, and most of the audience’s, I guess, is Jeff Hobson, ‘The Trickster’. His style and class outshines everything else, winning the crowd over within seconds. The linkman and MC, Hobson’s rapport with individuals and the crowd as a whole is classic comedy: gags tried and tested and routines that have been handed down from generations. His ad libs are fine tuned and his technique flawless. A mix of Nathan Lane, Bob Downes and Lilly Savage, Hobson is the consummate professional and should I would pay to watch him on his own for two and a half hours.

‘The Escapologist’, Andrew Basso, is another highlight of the evening, with his Houdini tribute water illusion. Hands and ankles handcuffed and dropped upside down in a tank of water, Basso knows how to push the buttons, heightening suspense and creating pure silence in a packed Civic for over two minutes. Without any curtaining whatsoever this is an illusion you don’t get to see every day. Go see the show just for this. 

Aside from Basso’s opening straightjacket routine, the water escape is his only appearance: again something of a disappointment from such a showman.

Kevin James as ‘The Inventor’ brings comedy and magical inventions to the stage with his entourage and zany appearance. From close up magic involving paper – which delighted a little girl in the crowd last night and would have made her year – to an awe-inspiring finale, James breaks ground and draws your breath away. 

The show is scored by resident band Z, who provide a rock opera feel to the proceedings, presumably in order to make the show sexier. Gone are the long cloaks, top hats and canes (though we did see one!), and hello to smoke, loud music, bright lights. This is a magic show for a new generation that wants to experience spectacle. Last night’s crowd gave a well-deserved standing ovation.

And now for the other point of view (spoiler alert?). In no way am I going to give away secrets or tricks of the trade; I don’t know them all but as mentioned before you can never un-know certain things once learnt.

From a stage technique point of view all seven magicians were impeccable, well versed, styled and the best you will ever see. However, a few criticisms, which would probably only appear to someone who has been in the business, do tend to jump out. Now illusion by its very nature is just that, illusion so I have no quibbles with how the audience is deceived or how the show is worked, but from a professional point of view there were certain points that yell out at me, such that if this were a traditional theatre show, a reviewer would indeed highlight them.

First off, seven magicians are great. They were obviously bought together to create a spectacular and you certainly get your money’s worth, but there is that sense of left wanting when for example, you only see Basso for two illusions. Brilliant though they are he probably takes up 15 minutes, if that, of the night.

Padding is in evidence far too much. Padding is used by old hacks to disguise the fact they have little material. The very nature of these illusionists suggests they have material to fill their own shows several times over. Why not cut the padding and show us more?

It doesn’t cost more to do a few smaller illusions in and around the bigger ones. The two and a half hour show probably contains an hour and half of magic. Yes, I do know that padding is standard but if this is a one-off tour, breathing new life into magic with slogans such as ‘Magic is Back’  and ‘Witness The Impossible’, why not give us as much as you can and leav us breathless? Or is ‘The Illusionists 2’ coming to town?

Old gags will always work, old tricks always go down well and your average audience member will always appreciate what they have never seen before but the ‘Rope Trick’? Jeff Hobson creates a beautifully crafted and funny routine out of this but really? A trick that can be bought from any second rate magic store and done by every clown, hack and cod magician round the world – should this be part of a stage spectacular? 

In theatrical reviews it would be perfectly acceptable to discuss issues of unnecessary padding and old gimmicks or techniques but in Variety, where illusion is indeed the key and some of these issues par for the course, perhaps not (hence the spoiler alert). But I think this show promises it will be different. And it can be, it just falls short once or twice.

Any audience though – as last night’s did – will love every second of this show.


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