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Show and Tell: 'The Illusionists' at 5th Avenue Theatre

A dad magician casts a critical eye on this high-octane magic show, and is stunned

Cameron Graves

Published on: June 18, 2015

The Futurist, Adam Trent, combines illusion with tech for a captivating performance. Photo credit: Vanessa Viana

The bottom line

Prepare to be amazed! The Illusionists, playing at the 5th Avenue Theatre through June 21, is a highly engaging mashup of comedy, sleight of hand and death-defying feats. It's a magical journey that's appropriate for the whole family (if your kids can sit that long). 


Take a deep breath, because if you are planning on attending The Illusionists you might need the oxygen. At just over two hours, including intermission, it features seven unique performers — who reprsesent a diverse range of magical characters — who perform feats that will keep on the edge of your seat. 

I wasn't sure what to expect, but walking in to the 5th Avenue Theatre with a buzz of people and excited kids (my own included) brought me straight back to my own childhood, which I was fortunate to see the likes of David Copperfield and Magician/Comedian Mac King. I was buzzing, too. 

Andrew Basso dangles by his feet before being dropped into a tank of water.

In a digital world where most impossible feats are viewed via a screen, seeing magic performed in the flesh is startling. Nicknamed The Warrior, The Inventor, The Trickster, The Anti-Conjuror, The Escapologist, The Futurist, and The Manipulator, their collective talent adds up to a seamless show that manages to transport the audience from everyday life to a place where the impossible is possible. 

I highly recommend taking a few moments before the show to read through the bio of each performer, because when you meet them you'll have a little more context and appreciation for their stories and personalities. While waiting for the show to start, my 8-year-old son and I pored over each biography, as he excitedly noted that some of the performers began their journey into magic at his age. 

As someone who dabbles as an illusionist as well (I am an amateur magician), I tend to be a bit more critical of magic shows, but I was truly blown away. The show included everything — from close-up magic to grandiose illusions with fire, electricity, and the works, giving it a depth that I’d yet to see in a magic show. Without giving too much away out of respect to the magicians, I can say that the audience was allowed to witness (or even participate in if they were lucky) multiple comedic acts mixed with astounding sleight-of-hand, beautiful misdirection, and impressive physical feats. My personal favorite was The Escapologist Andrew Basso's headfirst dive into the Chinese water torture chamber — you may, as I did, attempt to hold your breath along with him. 

If you have a daughter who is a magic enthusiast, don't be too put off by the heavily male crew. Kevin James (the Inventor) made it a point to pick a young girl from the audience to help with one of his tricks, and then took a few moments to share his thoughts about getting girls excited about magic and the need for more female magicians in the industry. He even presented his young helper with a magic kit afterwards. 

I left this show with great respect for the talent of the crew. David Sperry (The Anti-Conjuror) blends comedy with macabre. Yu Ho-Jin (The Manipulator) is a card whisperer. Adam Trent (The Futurist) shoves magic into the 21st century with comedic flare. Aaron Crow (The Warrior) can captivate without uttering a single syllable. Jeff Hobson (The Trickster) will have you laughing the whole time he steals from you. Kevin James (The Inventor) brings his startling creativity to the stage. And of course, Andrew Basso will have you holding you breath, then gasping for air. 

The Anti-Conjurer, Dan Sperry, Captivates with the help of his feathered friends.

Should you take your kid?

The Illusionists is recommended for kids ages 4 and older, but I recommend taking into consideration how long your child can sit. I left my 4- and 5-year-old at home and brough my 8-year-old son, who was thoroughly enthralled. 

It runs two hours and five minutes, which includes a 20-minute intermission.

Tip: Arrive early allow for parking, bathroom break, and reading through the program. If you have young kids, try to get an aisle seat so you can bolt to the bathroom at intermission before the line gets too long. 

If you go ...

When: LIMITED TIME ONLY! The Illusionists plays through Sunday, June 21.  See all show times here.

Where:  The 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle

Tickets: $24 and up. Buy online from, or by phone at 206-625-1900 or 888-5TH-4TIX.

Snacks and eats:  There is one 15-minute intermission with some snacks available in the lobby before the performance and at intermission (though it is hard to fit in a bathroom break and snag a snack). Your best bet is to grab food before the show. 

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