Article by Luis Vazquez
Photo by Xue Liang
You can feel it sitting there in the Palace Theatre. It’s the smell of history. This building opened on March 24th, 1913 and has been the home to headliners such as Bob Hope, The Marx Brothers, and Will Rogers among others. But it’s also has a tradition for men of magic who performed their trade in this very locale.
This Friday, producers Simon Painter and Tim Lawson, will be presenting the third season of “The Illusionists: Turn of the Century” on Broadway. Not bad for a show that played for ten days in 2012 in the Sydney Opera House in Australia. Oh how far they have come. Lawson expressed the irony. “I don’t think either of us could have imagined that I would be standing here on this stage.”
This stage was also walked by the great Harry Houdini, who still inspires illusionists to this day. In a sampler of four acts displayed for the press on a rainy morning outside “The Daredevil” Jonathan Goodwin, considered one of the craziest stunt performers in the world, performed a Harry Houdini special tied with handcuffs while raised by a rope that was set on fire that he held on below by his teeth above a bed of nails was the extra dash added to an old favorite. “This is mind control,” He explained before attempting the trick. Needless to say without giving away spoilers, he survived.
In the tradition of the shows that depend on the mystery aspect to draw audiences, Lawson pointed out that this was the home to illusionists at the turn of the century which is the inspiration behind the title. But he also compared it to another style of performance. “Harry Houdini was also a vaudeville man,” Lawson explained, “Our show is vaudivillism in nature. It’s fast-paced, mind-blowing illusions, side-splitting comedy, and it has a lot of heart.”
The next three acts were well summarized by this statement. Charlie Frye, “The Eccentric” is all about vaudeville as he did an act with rings that will have to be seen to be believed. We went from there to “The Immortal” Rick Thomas who proclaimed that we would see an act we never saw before. He went on with assistant Jinger Leigh, “The Conjuress” doing a levitation trick. He followed by covering her with a veil and then proceeded to levitate himself up to her. A nice change of pace. Then as he uncovered the veil…
The final act was also the most frightening as well as intriguing as the runners up to NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” Thommy Ten and Amelie van Tass, “The Clairvoyants proceeded to read the mind and guess thoughts on the money. But the most interesting one would be when Ten was smoking a cigarette and Amelie blew out smoke out of her mouth.
While press gathered around the participants “The Grand Carlini” Justo Thaus, the master string puller worked his puppet quietly across the stage to no fanfare but represented the depth of talent that was acquired to present this specific showcase which is playing now at the Palace Theatre and running until Jan1, 2017.