'The Illusionists' look backward for next Broadway stop
NEW YORK (AP) -- The magic supergroup "The Illusionists" is coming back to Broadway for a new holiday show - and this time they're bringing a time machine.
Eight magicians - including, for the first time, a female contingent - will be part of a show celebrating the tricks and mood of the Golden Age of Magic, from 1903 to 1927.
"Magic back then was smarter, a little darker. Magicians took their time. There was just a little bit more mystery and certain grandness to it," said Mark "The Showman" Kalin, who once made a jumbo jet disappear in Nevada.
"The Illusionists - Turn of the Century" will start performances at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in November, promising levitation, card tricks and death-defying escapes and costumes true to the era.
"Really, all magic that we know today is stage magic that did start at that time," said Simon Painter, the show's creative producer. "I just thought it would be an amazing thing to really go back there and do it and do it properly."
The lineup will be Rick Thomas ("The Immortal"), Justo Thaus ("The Grand Carlini"), Jonathan Goodwin ("The Daredevil"), Charlie Frye ("The Eccentric"), Dana Daniels ("The Charlatan"), Thommy Ten and Amélie van Tass ("The Clairvoyants"), Jinger Leigh ("The Conjuress") and her husband, Kalin.
The Golden Age of Magic - as the films "The Prestige" or "The Illusionist" proved - was a time when magic went from the streets to the stage. "Magicians were really the rock stars of the day," Kalin said.
The new show will tip its hat to the era's most famous guy with nothing up his sleeve - Harry Houdini - as well as reacquaint audiences with lost tricks from the past, like the Okito floating ball, in which a ball hovers about the stage.
"We have utilized the exact same technology used at that time to replicate it onstage. There was no need to go any further. It was brilliant back then - an amazing mystery - and remains so today," Kalin said.
Van Tass will be blindfolded and checked for any devices before her partner goes out into the crowd and randomly picks items from theatergoers. Anything he touches, she'll instantly know, from serial numbers on their $5 bills to the expiration date of their asthma inhalers.
"No one knows how it works," Painter said.
The magical group first arrived on Broadway with "The Illusionists - Witness The Impossible" during the 2014-15 holiday season, breaking box office records and recouping costs in just over three weeks. Then "The Illusionists - Live on Broadway" arrived last Christmas and became the highest-grossing show ever at the Neil Simon Theatre.
This time Painter has added two female performers to the lineup for the first time. Back in the 1920s, women were headliners - mediums, psychics and clairvoyants - not just assistants. "It's fascinating to me because it's reflective of a different time and yet, by today's standards, forward-thinking," Kalin said.
The show, with a soundtrack recorded by the Prague Symphony Orchestra and augmented by a small orchestra onstage, will try to replicate the mood of the past. Painter said the magic somehow happens differently.
"The pacing of the show is different. It's not necessarily faster or slower. It's more mysterious," he said. "It leaves you with a different feeling than the other ones."
Mark Kennedy can be reached at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits