SEVEN MAGICIANS FROM ALL CORNERS OF THE EARTH COME TOGETHER TO FORM A BRAINY, BRAWNY ALL-STAR TEAM OF TRICKERY
“The Illusionists” runs Sept. 27-Oct. 2 at the Fox Theatre. Discount tickets at PoshDealz.com. Note: The seven-person lineup of illusionists is subject to change.
EVERY GREAT SUPERHERO has an origin story, and so must every magician. It almost always involves a youngster, a mind blown, a vow and an obsession.
“When I was 7 years old we had an assembly at school,” says Jeff Hobson. “A policeman who was also a magician did some wonderful tricks, with a message of safety. The green ball meant go, the red ball meant stop.
“I looked at everybody that was around me and they were all amazed, and I said, ‘I’m going to do that when I grow up.
“And they said, ‘Yeah, right.’”
Hobson is now part of The Illusionists Live From Broadway, a seven-man all-star team of magicians that The New York Times called “a high-tech magic extravaganza.”
Each magician has a superhero-style nickname. Hobson, who’s based in Las Vegas, is “The Trickster.” He does what’s called “comedy magic.” His comrades in amazements are:
- The Anti-Conjuror. Dan Sperry, a Minnesota-born, New York-based performer, saw his first magician — David Copperfield — at age 4.
- The Escapologist. Andrew Basso grew up in a small Italian town and attended the circus each year. When his somber mother watched a circus magician and laughed, he says, he, too, wanted to grow up and have that power with her. It’s no surprise that his hero is the master of escape, Harry Houdini.
- The Grand Illusionist. Darcy Oake’s father showed him a card trick when he was 8. He’s from Britain.
- The Manipulator. Yu Ho-Jin, a South Korea native, writes on his website that he discovered magic when he was 8 years old, when a friend made a playing card disappear and reappear. “I learned and practiced magic tricks myself after that and showed it to my friends and just the fact that they loved it thrilled me.”
- The Deductionist. Colin Cloud, a forensic scientist, mixes mind magic and brain science with his love of Arthur Conan Doyle works. The Scot does an audience mind-reading act. “When the other boys were out playing football and hiding in the woods,” his website says, he “was predicting the score and finding their hiding places with almost psychic accuracy.”
- The Inventor. Kevin James, a French-born American, happens to be a descendant of that great circus humbug P.T. Barnum.
These magnificent seven took on their nicknames to become “the Avengers of magic,” Hobson says.
Plenty of children are in awe of magicians and want to learn the tricks but most drop it, eventually let alone becoming professionals. There is no single reason to account for the few who follow their dream all the way, Hobson says.
“I was an only child, so I had a lot of time on my hands. My parents were very supportive. When I was 11, I did my first public performance in my garage. When I was 12 a man asked me to perform for his daughter’s birthday party. He asked how much I charged, and I said, I don’t know, I’ll do it for free.’ He said, ‘I’ll pay you $5.’”
“I thought, ‘You know what, I could make a living.’”
Maybe there’s even some genetic component.
“My father was a tool-and-die maker, and we lived in Detroit and didn’t have a lot of money,” Hobson says. “My father would drive me to shows, and every Christmas and birthday I would ask for tricks. It wasn’t until I was 26 years old and a professional magician and I brought my father to a very nice resort where I was working and making good money, and I was treating him to nice dinners, and he said, ‘You know, I always wanted to be a magician. I used to practice tricks when I was a kid.’
“This was the first time I ever heard that out of his mouth. So I have the feeling that made all the difference in the world, because my father was living vicariously through me.”
Hobson learned magic in the 1970s and ’80s, long before there were YouTube videos that break down how every magic trick is done. He bought books and practiced tricks like “the famous penny to dime trick.”
“You place a penny on someone’s forefinger,” he says, “and you wave this magic cube over the penny without touching it and boom! It changes into a dime. I would do that little trick all the time.”
When the Illusionists are on the road but offstage, they rarely discuss their origin stories. They’re more likely to joke about past performance mishaps. “Those happen all the time when you’re on your way to becoming a professional,” Hobson says. “You learn by making mistakes, magicians more than most.
“Once you become a magician, mistakes still happen, but we have enough experience after 20 or 30 years to be able to cover it up and not let anyone know it happened.”
That would be the illusionist part.