The Illusionists: Direct from Broadway

 This is the fourth time a group of magicians under the banner of “The Illusionists” have staged a production in Melbourne, and this is the third show within the franchise that I have seen. I was extremely lucky and excited to be sitting in the front row, in front of all the action that was about to unfold! The 2019 installation of “The Illusionists” featured the following performers: Paul Dabek (The Trickster), Florian Sainvet (The Manipulator), Mark Kalin (The Showman) and Jinger Leigh (The Conjuress), Leonardo Bruno (The Alchemist), Chris Cox (The Mind Reader) and Sam Powers (The Enigma). The production also features Robyn Sharpe (The Warrior) however she was absent from the show I attended.

 I do not wish to spoil too much about what feats each act contained, however I will mention that this show has something that appeals to everyone who enjoys magic as there are so many styles that are covered. I especially enjoyed the magic presented by Jinger Leigh and Mark Kalin – both well respected and award winning magicians from the United States – as their acts contained magic that was captivating and incredible. Both are great storytellers and held the audience’s gaze and attention with each magical tale. Another performer of note is Frenchman Flavian Sainvet (The Manipulator)- also an award winning magician – once you’ve seen his act, you’ll understand why! All his magic was so smooth, and there was one piece in particular that made me feel as though I should get my eyes checked (ha!)

Another personal highlight was the MC for most of the evening (and resident Trickster) Paul Dabek. Previously I’d been lucky enough to catch Paul Dabek’s solo show (previous review for that is here) and wasn’t surprised he’d been hand selected to join The Illusionists -the man has impeccable comedic timing! From the moment he appeared onstage he prompted laughs and I know that I was laughing at points all along the show, clearly due to Paul. In an art form that can be a little serious at times, Paul Dabek made this show lighthearted and beyond enjoyable. Clearly I can go on about this man for ages, but trust me – once you enjoy his work you’ll understand why he’s world class.

Final performer mentions from me are Chris Cox (The Mind Reader) and ‘homegrown hero’ Sam Powers (The Enigma). Chris Cox took my mental image / concept / prior experience of mind readers and flipped all categories! Literally bounding around stage with exuberance (kind of like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh – but with braces, glasses and a neat outfit), Chris charmed the audience quickly with his endearing nature. Whereas ‘typical’ mind readers can come across as a bit scary / creepy with often serious routines, Chris ensured that his routines were the opposite – lighthearted, charming and not at all scary. The level of details he went to when ‘picking the brains’ of his audience members were incredible – much of the audience members were in disbelief. We are talking about ridiculous levels of detail here. Sam Powers had two segments in the show: one segment of classic stage magic and another set featuring a nail biting escape routine. Ever the showman, Sam was all smiles throughout his magic and showed plenty of panache. I very much enjoyed his magical stage entrance.

Without making too many comparisons to previous productions of “The Illusionists”, I will mention that there were aspects of this show that I liked more than the other shows – radically different presentations of magic and greatly enhanced comedy – however I did feel that some portions of the show did not reward those who had attended the previous productions. This left me wondering as surely the show producers would take into account that a percentage of the audience would have seen at least one of the previous productions of “The Illusionists”? Nevertheless, I’m always excited when the team of “The Illusionists” include Melbourne in their show run. The fact they keep returning is testament to the popularity and public interest in magic around the world and in Melbourne, which I think is wonderful.

 VERDICT: Perfect mix of comedy, suspense and some nail biting moments to keep you on the edge of your seat! “The Illusionists” have high production values and a show formula that consistently works, making this show a ‘safe bet’ for a very entertaining and mystifying night out.

*Note: The Illusionists have concluded their show run, but future shows are listed on their website here: https://www.theillusionistslive.com/
They may be appearing in a city near you soon!

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“ASPYCADABRA” performed by Tim Ellis

On a hot Summer evening in Melbourne, my partner and I ventured out to the bespoke and exclusive Laneway Theatre (within an inner city suburb) to enjoy the premiere of Tim Ellis’ new magic show, titled “ASPYCADABRA”. For those of you unaware, Tim Ellis is synonymous with magic in Melbourne – during the show, Tim mentions that over the years he has run a magic shop, he runs /organises The Melbourne Magic Festival and now runs his own theatre too. Upfront in the show, Tim explains that he has Asperger’s Syndrome (or Autism Spectrum Disorder as it has now been categorised under) and sometimes refers to himself as an ‘Aspy’ – hence the name of the show.

You may think that the subject matter within this show could get a bit serious, however I found that Tim treated Asperger’s Syndrome with care whilst also being candid. I assure you there were some laughs and lighthearted moments during the show and Tim was keen to project some of the advantages of Asperger’s (especially helping him to succeed in his profession, and have a sort of collection of ‘superpowers’). The downsides to having Asperger’s were also mentioned – but not in a ‘poor me’ fashion – rather a trade off of skills (gaining some skills at the expense of others).

I enjoyed the personal nature of this show as it gave the audience a chance to learn more about the magician themselves. In the magical world of smoke and mirrors – where nothing is as it seems -I relished the chance to discover more about Tim and his background. Almost part TED talk, part magic show, each piece of magic was carefully selected to accompany a piece of dialogue or a short story relating to a strength or weakness of Asperger’s. Speaking of the magic, I won’t spoil too much here but along with some pieces of magic that Tim regularly performs, there was a piece that made everyone gasp with surprise. It was an incredible feat of magic that left audience members with their jaws on the floor! Children were in the audience on opening night, many of them chanting “HOW did he do that?!” I also personally enjoyed the messages conveyed via card magic (especially relating to trying to ‘fit in’).

There were many personal messages in the show, but the one that resonated with me (and that was carried all the way through the show) is that everyone is unique – and that is something that should be celebrated. In a society and world that tends to want everyone to act and work a certain way, there’s something liberating about celebrating everyone’s unique qualities. Indeed, Tim mentions that everyone had their role and part to play in society no matter their background or individual differences. Tim also opened up a segment of question time during the show, which I feel enhanced the audience’s learning. At the end of the show, it felt nice to have seen some fantastic magic and to have learnt more about the performer at the same time.

VERDICT: A thought provoking and candid show well worth your time. Part TED talk and part magic show “ASPYCADABRA” is as entertaining as it is informative, thought provoking and clever. I encourage everyone to come and see this show – it is so worthwhile.

Notes:
– this show is suited to teens upwards
– Disclaimer: my partner and I attended as guests of the performer

Tickets and further information:
https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=448181

2019 has started swiftly!

Hello readers! I hope the new year has started well for you all. You’re probably (again!) wondering where I’ve gone to / where I’ve been hiding these past couple of months…well in a nutshell, it has been a mixture of being unwell (and being unable to go out and watch shows) along with trying to find a new place to live mixed in with the usual holiday family gatherings. It has been a busy time and I have been to a few outings however I haven’t had a chance to write about them as life and ‘life admin’ got in the way a little. I am keen to resume my regular posts and reviews so I hope you are keen to continue reading about my adventures.

I am excited to write that I’m back reviewing this week and can’t wait to share my adventures with you all! This week brings two magic shows (one an International production), along with a play and a fun adventure to a mini golf pop-up experience. Plenty of fun ‘on the cards’ (as they say) this week!

I’m also looking forward to some other adventures / potential adventures that may be occurring later this year (not much I can elaborate on right now) as well as enjoying all the regular festivals on Melbourne’s annual calendar of events – like the International Comedy Festival, the Melbourne Magic Festival and the Fringe Festival among others.

Currently, Midsumma is on so I hope some of you are enjoying all the fun moments that festival brings.

I look forward to writing again soon, and as always, thanks for sticking around and having a read and a share.

Tay