What: ‘The Illusionists – Live From Broadway’
Magic is enjoying a high point in history.
At least that’s the view of Jeff Hobson, who remembers the days when a young magician had to seek out the tricks of the trade in books and shops like Ted Carrothers Magic Studio, a one-time specialty store in Toledo that Hobson, who grew up in Detroit, remembers browsing.
Contrast that to the present-day convenience of introductory videos on YouTube — and to the exposure that professional magicians are receiving on that platform and on television shows like America’s Got Talent — and, voila, a zenith for abracadabra.
“A lot of people want to see magic,” Hobson said.
It’s a trend he sees reflected in the runaway success of The Illusionists – Live From Broadway, a world-traveling magic show that stops at the Stranahan Theater in Toledo on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The Illusionists casts Hobson as “the Trickster,” a comedic master of sleight of hand and one-fifth of a superhero-esque team of magicians who promise theater-goers an evening of inexplicable tricks, death-defying stunts and moments of jaw-dropping wonder.
Jeff Hobson, the Trickster, performs with the help of an audience member.
Tyukodi Laszlotyu Enlarge
Don’t expect average magic tricks out of these magicians, Hobson said.
“Everybody that performs in the show is the top of the list of magical entertainment,” he said.
Joining Hobson’s Trickster onstage are Kevin James as the “Inventor,” Colin Cloud as the “Deductionist,” Jonathan Goodwin as the “Daredevil,” and An Ha Lim as the “Manipulator.”
Each excels in a different field of magic. James, for example, is a prolific inventor of magic contraptions whose ideas have made their way into the shows of prominent magicians such as Penn & Teller and David Copperfield; Cloud is described as a real-life Sherlock Holmes, and Goodwin, for his part, stands out as the only one of the show’s performers who does not deal in illusion.
He’s a stunt performer who has starred or been featured in numerous television shows. His wheelhouse includes escape artistry, knife throwing, archery, and more.
Hobson, who specializes in comedic magic, ties the acts together as a host of sorts.
“Our show is filled with so many other moments of danger and suspense and awe and astonishment and beauty and whatnot,” he said. “In every theatrical production, there’s always a light spot, a touch of humor. I bring that to the show. I keep things moving.”
But keep an eye on the Trickster. He’s been known to swipe a wristwatch or two — or more.
“Over my career, I’ve taken about 74,000 watches to date,” Hobson said.
“I’ve given them all back,” he continued, suggesting that he’s perhaps “the most honest pickpocket there is.”
“I don’t have a problem with the police at this point.”
Hobson, 56, got an early start in magic. He was just 7 when a magician came to perform at his school, introducing him to the world of magic and illusions and inspiring him to decide, right then and there, that that was what he would do for the rest of his life.
He picked up the technical skills by frequenting magic shops in Detroit and Toledo and studying books that explained how to do various tricks; while he wasn’t necessarily a studious child, he said, he was studious enough when it came to cracking open these types of books.
He also found himself well suited for the theatrical and comedic aspects of magic, describing himself as a “class clown” in his younger days and recalling his admiration for comedic masters like Red Skelton, Danny Kaye, Dick Van Dyke, and, later, Robin Williams and Steve Martin.
“I really took to being able to laugh at an early age,” Hobson said. “I got in trouble for it at school, but, hey, that’s the price you pay.”
Hobson broke into the magic scene of Las Vegas in 1993; although he’s been a Nevadan for more than 20 years, he said he hopes soon to return home to Detroit. He’s logged numerous live shows, television appearances, and other engagements over the years, including his Illusionarium show for Norwegian Cruise Line.
He joined the cast of The Illusionists in 2012, when it debuted at the Sydney Opera House. He’s since traveled with the show to cities around the world, including New York, where the The Illusionists debuted on Broadway in 2014.
The show is already booking its 2018-2019 season, and Hobson said he doesn’t see that momentum slowing any time soon. It’s one more reflection of what he sees as a high point in the profession that he chose as a elementary school student.
“I’m really living a childhood dream,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to do that and have a profession where I can make people laugh and make people wonder at the magic.”
Performances began at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Tickets, $30 to $85, are available online at BroadwayInToledo.com, through the theater box office or by calling 419-381-8851.
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