‘The Illusionists’: Fast, funny blend of comedy, magic

Master manipulator Ah Ha Lim has the cards flying around the stage.©ClaudiaJames.

BOSTON – The world of magic and illusion, once largely confined to the showrooms of Las Vegas hotels, has long since gone big-time, often appearing on Broadway or in televised specials.

The latest show to arrive fresh from the Great White Way is “The Illusionists – Live From Broadway” at the Colonial Emerson Theatre through Sunday, March 10.

The production is an eclectic collection of well-known performers from around the world.

“The Illusionists” relies heavily on audience participation and if you’re in the first few rows, there’s a good chance you’ll be on up stage at some point.

It is as much stand-up comedy as it is magic and illusions.

A pithy Scotsman named Colin Cloud is nicknamed “The Deductionist” and portrays himself as “the real-life Sherlock Holmes of the mind,” armed with a marvelous collection of tricks, seemingly plucking out of thin air whatever audience members are thinking about, and having the answers show up improbably in sealed envelopes, all the while carrying on a running series of gags and delivering rapid-fire one-liners.

Colin Cloud combines comedy, magic.© The Illusionists

Jonathan Goodman is “The Daredevil,” and your blood pressure will rise as he struggles to get out of a straitjacket within 60 seconds to save himself from being dumped head-first into the clutches of a nasty spring-loaded bear trap. Later he will wield a deadly crossbow to literally slice a paper-thin piece of newsprint even as a slight draft wafts moves the microscopic target. You’ll hold your breath as he shoots blindfolded at a target.

Sabine Van Dieman is billed as “The Sorceress” and performs two well-done illusions as well as aiding Goodman as the human target of his crossbow.

Great Britain’s Paul Dabek (“The Trickster”) is another who mixes comedy with magic and illusion.

He aces an early bit but a later encounter between Dabek and a young boy from the audience doesn’t go quite as well as he wanted, but Dabek makes the most of it.

Australian Raymond Crowe (The Unusualist”) proves a skilled and funny ventriloquist and even does some “old school” magic: Charming shadow puppetry that shows what magic can come from a light, two hands and 10 fingers.

For my money, the best and the brightest is South Korean An Ha Lim – “The Manipulator” – who has won magic contests all around the world; he is a card shark and then some. He brings the level of card tricks to a new level as cards appear here, there and everywhere, seemingly out of thin air.

In one sequence, 1,000 cards will appear from nowhere and cascade across the stage.

The production values, especially the lighting and video displays, are top-notch, although the musical soundtrack could stand to be turned down a notch or two to merely blaring.

A large HD screen at the back of the stage offers theater-goers in the upper reaches of the Emerson Colonial Theatre a close-up view of the more intimate illusions.

The Illusionists: Live from Broadway” is fast, funny, always entertaining, with enough thrills to keep you on the edge of your seats and spectacular illusions that will leave you searching for answers.

Sinon Painter, Tim Lawson and MagicSpace Entertainment present “The Illusionists: Live From Broadway.” Director/Creative Director Neil Dorward. Lighting design by Jared Sayeg. Costume design by Angela Aaron. Video Design by NICE Studios. At the Emerson Colonial Theatre through Sunday, March 10. broadwayinboston.com

Australian Raymond Crowe performs shadow puppetry. © The Illusionists