One hundred years ago, before YouTube and Pokemon entertained kids on demand, audiences went to the theater to be wowed by illusionists. A magician would magically saw a woman in half, clairvoyants read audience’s minds, and escape artists like Harry Houdini ditched elaborate restraints. Surely, in this modern age, we’re all too savvy to still be mystified by these type of entertainers?
That’s definitely what my “been there, seen that” 13-year-old son thought when he sat down for the limited engagement The Illusionists: Turn of The Century at The Palace Theater. “I can see the wires,” he whispered as a glowing globe levitated. But then, the globe shot sideways, went through a hoop, was trapped in a glass box, and then started to rise again. “Hmm,” muttered Aidan. A woman disappeared (“behind the curtain,” he said), but then came back somewhere so surprising (I don’t want to spoil the illusion for you), that we were both left agog.
“That,” Aidan said grabbing my hand, “was AMAZING!”
When the self-proclaimed “Charlatan” started his act of small slights of hand and BIG jokes, Aidan laughed harder than at a YouTube video of Yoda Singing “Seagulls” (trust me, that’s funny).
In fact, my husband, Aidan, and I all loved this show. It was fun, full of surprises, and truly entertaining. Maybe there’s even real magic in the air, since Houdini actually played at The Palace during his heyday.
There were a lot of highlights of this just-here-for-the-holidays show (the third annual holiday appearance of “The Illusionists.”) I was happy to see the live band the accompanied the acts, as well as the non-magic parts of the show. In fact, it felt a lot like what real vaudeville would have been a century ago, with a juggler (Charlie Frye “The Eccentric”), the clowning of Charlatan Dana Daniels (our family’s favorite), and even amazing puppetry by “The Grand Carlini.”
And then there’s the grand Illusionists, including some of our favorites, “The Immortal” Rick Thomas, who, in turns, levitated, sawed in half, and completely made a woman vanish; “The Daredevil” Jonathan Goodwin, who performs both feats of strength and Houdini-like escapes; and “The Conjuress” Jinger Leigh, the master of the levitating glowing orb.
There’s also “The Clairvoyants” (Thommy Ten and Amelie Van Tass), a well-advertised part of the show and familiar to fans of America’s Got Talent where they were favorites for their amazing mind-reading act. I hadn’t seen them before, but some of the things they can do, like knowing the serial number on a randomly chosen dollar bill in the audience, really made me reconsider everything I thought I knew about mind-reading.
But don’t take my word for it, come see The Illusionists: Turn of the Century for yourself; it’s perfect for families with kids of all ages 7 and up for a holiday outing. I think it’s especially good for teens and tweens who will be thoroughly entertained, and even mystified, by some good old fashioned illusions.
Note: Large screens that descend when there’s smaller magic or detailed work going on makes it easy for smaller children to see. Some of the jokes and possibly the daredevil might not be appropriate for kindergarteners and younger.
The limited engagement only runs through January 1, 2017, so time is of the essence.
The Illusionists: Turn of the Century
The Palace Theater
7th Avenue, at 47th Street