USA

CHAMPIONS OF MAGIC

The British have a long history of invading America, in so many different ways. But one of the most unexpected invasions to date (although this is perhaps up for debate) is that of the British magicians. Having spent several years touring throughout the UK, the Champions of Magic have arrived on US soil in an attempt to internationally stun and amaze and triumph, as any good champion should- and as these five magicians have.

Although a team effort, the strength of the Champions is not in any form of group chemistry or magic genre alignment- the Champions almost never share the stage (with the exception of double act Young & Strange) and they perform very distinct styles of trickery. No, instead, their power is instead in representing all the relationships an audience member can have with magic.

‘Magic as wonder’ is exemplified by Edward Hilsum, a remarkable magician with terrifyingly adept fingers. In his first act totally mute, and even after that quite reserved in patter, Hilsum still manages to create the kind magic that makes his audience fall similarly silent in enchanted awe as objects appear and disappear effortlessly in front of their eyes.

For Fay Presto, the relationship inspired is perhaps more ‘magic as nostalgia’ or even ‘magic as a cultural institution.’ The tricks are classic and the humor is dry, and a beat too sharp for the audience- although we all get the joke, albeit a few seconds too late, but if you can keep up Presto leaves you as amused as impressed with her magical manipulations.

The mind reader of the Champions, naturally, is responsible for ‘magic as a challenge’, perhaps the most engaging relationship of them all. There’s always something a little bit combative between magicians and the audience- the man or woman on stage is there to trick us, after all, and everyone wants to be astute enough to catch them in the act. But nothing is more tricky than when they can even see into your mind- as Alex McAller seems to do. Bouncing from knowing the cards you have to the item you’ll pick to the names and words safely stored only in your memory, McAleer’s effusive energy makes him impossibly charming despite the frustration he inspires by being far too clever. If McAleer wasn’t on the top of his game at the Waukegan, IL show, then he has far too much game for one man.

Finally, the most important relationship, ‘magic as the joke’, is supplied by Richard Young and Sam Strange. While most the Champions are funny in their own ways, Young & Strange take the humor of the art to a whole new level. Filled with a laddish arrogance that the audience is delighted by despite themselves, this duo purposefully makes their illusions utterly ridiculous but in the best possible way, throwing grand illusions at the audience while simultaneously refusing to take themselves even a tiny bit seriously.

The Champions of Magic, despite gamely sharing this triumphant title, are more accurately four magic shows in one. Although this does create a little stylistic whiplash, we are ultimately fortunate for it, for there’s something for everyone and anyone to appreciate in this artful, magical experience.

AN INTERVIEW WITH HAYDINI

After Hayden Childress (aka Haydini)’s recent performance in Charlotte (review here), he gave reviewer Hannah R. the chance to chat with him a bit about his passion for magic.

Hannah: On your website it says you started performing magic when you were ten years old. What inspired you to start learning magic?

Hayden: I was always into weird things when I was younger. I can remember there was this Disney Channel Original Movie called Now You See Me, and during the commercial breaks they would teach magic tricks. I learned them and showed them to my family and friends and started from there.

Who would you say are some magicians and performers who inspire you?

I had the privilege to perform with Mack King in Las Vegas. What I really enjoy about his shows is how the magic comes from the crowd. Of course I also look up to people like David Copperfield and Penn & Teller.

We already know about your passion for magic, so what are some other hobbies you enjoy?

I really like learning languages and love music as well. I also enjoy being outdoors and hiking. I don’t own a lot and am pretty minimalistic; I like having experiences more than things.

You mentioned in your show you recently graduated from college. Do you feel you’ve been able to incorporate what you’ve learned into your performances?

Well, I went to business school so I’ve definitely been able to use what I learned in terms of marketing, merchandise, etc. As far as magic I always found data collection and its use interesting and I definitely like to see how I can apply that to magic by attempting to make correct predictions based on what I know.

You’re making quite a name for yourself in Charlotte and the audience really enjoyed your show. What do you have planned for the future?

My goals would have to be bigger shows and more cities. A lot of people who don’t live near big cities don’t have access to magic and I’d love to be able to take my show to places like that and give them a show they wouldn’t have otherwise.

 

If you’d like to see Haydini or learn more about him, visit his website

HAYDINI

You can often conjecture how well a magic show will play out just by taking a glance around the theatre. As I scanned the room for the best available seats, I couldn’t help but notice the demographics of the crowd; while there was a wide array of ages in attendance, there was definitely a large amount of children. While this isn’t necessarily a negative fact, I was initially concerned that either the magic would be catered to those who are younger or the act would struggle with child volunteers. I am pleased to say that I was proven wrong.

Our evening began with an introduction from the show’s “sponsor”, a Mr. N. S. A. touting the omnipresence of suggestive advertising and personal data collection. This small dip into suggestibility would be a common theme running through the evening. Haydini then presented us with the set up for an excellent reveal at the end of the show. Following this he quickly delved into a myriad of entertaining and well-executed sets, varying from sleight-of-hand to feats of mentalism. Each reveal earned him well deserved applause, impressing even the most discerning of audience members.

Haydini certainly excelled in incorporating the audience into his acts. He allowed individuals to choose whether they would like to participate, as opposed to selecting members who may be uncomfortable in the spotlight. Our magician worked well with each volunteer regardless of their age, which I’m sure you can guess is no easy task. His skill in improvisation allowed for him to adapt and make a situation comic that may have become awkward in the hands of a less skilled performer.

His improv skills certainly came of use during the show, as there were many times his technician was having issues with sound and light cues, which probably could have been fixed with a bit more rehearsing. While it did detract from the show a bit, Haydini managed each blip professionally and didn’t let the technical difficulties steal the show.

Ultimately, Haydini provides a fun, entertaining show that holds your attention throughout the entire evening. I would recommend his show to family and friends of all ages. The variety of his performance and the skill to which it was executed was captivating and attested to his prowess as a magician and performer. As he so aptly stated, “Anybody can cut you in half, but only a magician can put you back together.”

THE ILLUSIONISTS

☆☆☆☆

The Illusionists claim to be the “largest touring show in magic history anywhere,” but it is not just in size that they dominate the stage magic world. This show features a broad breadth of magic sub-fields, ensuring that no matter what style sparks your interest, there’s something spectacular for you at this performance.

The magical emcee of the Illusionists is Jeff Hobson, whose showmanship is the greatest boon to the performance as a whole. This comedy magician has a grandiose, flamboyant persona and wickedly slick wit, with a clever crack at the ready no matter what his volunteers or the audience do. Not only are the jokes fast but his hands as well, and in one memorable case, his tongue.

Attending a magic show, an audience expects to see some things they can’t explain. But having the thoughts plucked right out of their minds has it’s own special shock value. This illusion is delivered by Colin Cloud. Billed as ‘the Deductionist,’ the comparisons to Sherlock Holmes are blatant. Funnier than Benedict Cumberbatch and more dapper than Jeremy Brett, Cloud’s astute predictions are both impressive and terrifying.

Andrew Basso is  ‘The Escapologist’, and recreates one of Houdini’s greatest feats, the Water Torture Cell. Although, if the reaction of the ladies in the audience is any indication, he’s a bit more fit than his inspiration. It’s a bonus for them that the cell walls are clear, so we can see exactly how Basso expertly breaks out of his bonds, even under the intense pressure of holding his breath for several minutes.

Anti- Conjurer Dan Sperry strikes an attitude contrast to his peers, with no geniality to offer Sperry instead has a sullen menace that pairs appropriately with his wince-worthy tricks. No matter how desperate you are to see what’s going down, it takes a brave soul to peek through their fingers at this grotesque magic.

Rounding out the cast are ‘The Inventor’ Kevin James, with dramatic displays of craftily constructed magic, ‘The Manipulator’ Halim An with a beautifully choreographed sleight of hand, and ‘The Daredevil’ Jonathan Goodwin with heart-stoppingly stressful stunts that are also much to the credit of his assistants.

It is perhaps not a straight-forward compliment to say that the Illusionists are like magical hors d’oeuvres. Delivering short performances in rapid- fire, you never exactly feel like you’ve gotten the meat of the magic show, or like you’ve gotten to see each individual magician at their best. Just when you get attached to one flavor of magic, you’re two conjurers later. But there is an undeniable benefit to this recipe, that even if one magician isn’t to your taste, you get at least three more that are. Food metaphors aside, because they’re getting labored, The Illusionists is the perfect magic show to make you realize that you do actually like magic shows.

March 29, Heymann Performing Arts Center, Lafayette LA.

More information about the Illusionists and further dates of their tour can be found here.