Dallas — Dallas Summer Musicals brings The Illusionists back to the Music Hall at Fair Park for another jaw-dropping bombshell of a spectacle. Bow-and-arrow stunts, card manipulation, a water cell escape, disappearing acts, and other typical illusions (and other not-so-typical) take on a new sensationalism with each of the unique performers.
It was only two years ago that their show Witness the Impossible thrilled Dallas audiences, and their recent tour Live From Broadway is mostly the same, even down to the jokes. Part of the dazzle lies in the element of surprise, and the déjà vu feeling has the potential to lower the energy a bit, but the performance is still hilarious, electrifying, and frightening at times.
Jeff Hobson, “The Trickster,” emcees the gig with glitz and glamour, rattling off witty remarks at such a rapid-fire pace that it takes time to process the humor. “The Inventor” Kevin James returns, creating the snowflakes we have yet to see this year and sawing people in half.
Premiere escape artist Andrew Basso performs Houdini’s water escape in full view of the audience, with his smooth, smoldering Italian style. This show has a new “Daredevil” with a crossbow, Jonathan Goodwin, who shoots his target blindfolded and proves that it’s what he doesn’t hit that counts, as his teacher said.
Another major draw is Dan Sperry, “The Anti-Conjuror,” adding a gothic, macabre twist to his illusions. He once again horrifies the audience with his neck-flossing trick, which garnered him attention on America’s Got Talent several years ago and has earned him a distinction of being one of the top 10 most-Googled people.
Here’s where there might be a slight issue with the family-friendly selling point, and as usual, it’s up to parents to do their research and find out if shows are appropriate for their children. Sperry’s new trick for this show proves a quite a bit more graphic than the ones from last time, which might frighten younger children, although the same could be said for James’ body-sawing illusion.
“The Deductionist,” Scotland’s Collin Cloud, labeled as “real-life Sherlock Holmes” and even consulted on an episode of the current BBC series, is the real shocker. Sleights of hand and tricks of the eye are one thing, but what happens when the trick is with your brain? Reading minute body language cues and understanding individual and social behaviors are an obvious part of his routine, but things get a little eerie when the thoughts of the audience show up on pre-printed items. Each of his acts has the audience wondering in amazement, “How did he know that?” and is obviously the favorite of the evening.
If there’s one element that’s slightly disappointing, it’s “The Manipulator,” but only in relation to the last performance. The gentleman playing that role two years ago won “Best Performer” by far, but this one approaches the role a little differently and is not as enchanting. An Ha Lim, an accomplished award-winner in own right, speeds through card manipulation with child-like wonder and ease, but he lacks the refined grace I was hoping would return to this act.
Regardless if it’s one’s first time or fifth seeing this show, it’s still a mind-boggling encounter. The innovation and showmanship required proves quite remarkable and creates a stunning experience that (for the most part) the whole family really can enjoy.