'The Illusionists,' and why we love to be fooled

by John Moore | May 10, 2017
The Illusionists Dan SperryDon't be fooled: No birds are harmed during Dan Sperry's performance in 'The Illusionists.' 


'Magic is back,' says the director, 'and I think we were a big part of bringing it back and making it cool again.'


By John Moore
Senior Arts Journalist

The Illusionists – Live from Broadway is a sophisticated variety show that gives seven of the greatest magicians in the world 10 minutes each to blow your mind. Then, on to the next.

“Most of our audiences love all seven of them,” says Director Neil Dorward. But should you not care for one, just blink and another will appear before your very eyes. The ensemble includes an escape artist, a mentalist, a daredevil and a deductionist.

The Illusionists, coming to Denver's Ellie Caulkins Opera House from May 19-21, is brought to you by the same creative team that surprised Denver with the thrilling aerial spectacle Circus 1903 in February. The Illusionists was (and remains) a simple performance concept that Dorward and Creative Producer Simon Painter modestly launched five years ago as a two-week run at the Sydney Opera House. It has since grown into a worldwide phenomenon that has played on Broadway and now has three current touring productions traveling the world, with stops including Canada and Russia.

There is just something we humans universally love about being fooled, Painter said. “That goes back to childhood,” he said, “that lovely age of innocence.”

But why do we so love to be fooled? That’s a bit like saying, “Why does a kid like Christmas?” Painter said. Both require a certain suspension of disbelief – and a healthy belief in magic.

“Our show is not really about figuring out, 'Is it real or not real?’ ” he said. “It's magic as an entertainment piece, as opposed to magic to move the Statue of Liberty from one place to another. There are things that people do in our show that are unbelievably remarkable. You won't believe what you are seeing on stage.”

The Illusionists Kevin James. Photo by Joan Marcus. You might not realize this, Dorward said, but magic – much like the circus - started to go out of fashion in the 1980s and ‘90s. “But magic is back,” Dorward said, “and I think we were a big part of bringing it back and making it cool again.”

They achieved that that, he said, by not taking magic too seriously. 

“This show has got lots of humor,” Dorward said. “We have some hysterically funny magicians, and some beautiful magicians.”

While the Denver lineup is subject to change, Dorward called out South Korea’s World Magic Champion An Ha Lim, otherwise known as “The Manipulator,” and "shock Illusionist" Dan Sperry, who is described as Marilyn Manson meets David Copperfield. Sperry bills himself as "The Anti-Conjuror," whose website is draped with the tagline: "Magic No Longer Sucks." Broadway World called Sperry the cynical Alice Cooper of magic: Totally icky, yet totally awesome at the same time.” But audiences are in on the joke: "He has audiences laughing and shuddering in equal measure," said the West Australian News.

(Pictured above and right: 'The Inventor,' Kevin James. Photo by Joan Marcus.)

“I would just bring your whole family out to the show,” Painter said. “It is highly entertaining. It’s lots of fun, lots of laughter and lots astonishing 'wows.’ You will be definitely fooled. So come along.”

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center's Senior Arts Journalist.

The Illusionists Live from Broadway: Ticket information
The Illusionists – Live From BroadwayThe story: This mind blowing spectacular showcases the jaw dropping talents of seven of the most incredible Illusionists on earth.  This non-stop show is packed with thrilling and sophisticated magic of unprecedented proportions.
• May 19-21
• Note: Newly added special family performance at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 20
• The Ellie Caulkins Opera House
• Tickets start at $30: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
• Groups: Call 303-446-4829


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ABOUT THE EDITOR
John Moore
John Moore
Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

DCPA is the nation’s largest not-for-profit theatre organization dedicated to creating unforgettable shared experiences through beloved Broadway musicals, world-class plays, educational programs and inspired events. We think of theatre as a spark of life — a special occasion that’s exciting, powerful and fun. Join us today and we promise an experience you won't soon forget.