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'The Illusionists' review: Sharp variety-show magic on Broadway

Andrew Basso in a scene from the Broadway

Andrew Basso in a scene from the Broadway show, "The Illusionists," in New York. Credit: AP / The Illusionists

Who says there's no magic on Broadway? "The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible" uses deceit right in the title. The tricks -- mostly one-offs from magic we've witnessed forever -- are not only possible, some give us the illusion that we've figured out how they're done. But what these "Illusionists" lack in originality, they make up for in style.

Inspired by Houdini, "Escapologist" Andrew Basso extricates himself from a water-filled tank. Handcuffed and hung upside down from the padlocked top, Basso picks the locks with a bobby pin. It takes 3 minutes and 9 seconds. I held my breath for 30 seconds.

So much for breathtaking feats, though a bow and arrow figure in "Warrior" Aaron Crow's stunt. He borrows a ring, jamming it inside an apple balanced on a young lady's head. Guess how her ring is retrieved.

While there are no levitation tricks, the show is leavened by humor. Overdressed in head-to-heel glitter, Jeff Hobson's "Trickster" is the Liberace of magicians. Endearing wit turns one of the oldest tricks -- producing an egg from an empty sack -- into comic magic. (We won't spoil the joke on his volunteer.)

I'm not sure what "Inventor" Kevin James invents. Perhaps animatronics. That might explain his new spin on sawing a lady in half. One torso (male) rests upright on a table. James wheels it across the stage while the legs stand on their own.

The goth magician -- "Anti-Conjurer" Dan Sperry brings to mind a heavy-metal guitarist -- adds dark levity to the Russian roulette trick of hiding a broken bottle, jagged edge up, inside one of four paper bags. A giggling volunteer is implored to smash one with her open palm.

It's no marvel to techies that "Futurist" Adam Trent can pop in and out of his video tableau, though his illusion is amusing.

We couldn't help but fix our gaze on the overhead video screen as "Manipulator" Yu Ho-Jin shuffled decks of cards in mesmerizing sequence. The close-up reveals nothing up his sleeves, but who can say it's shot live? An onstage videographer encourages us to think so.

Director Neil Dorward sets a rapid pace that blurs the prestidigitation to a relentless beat by onstage band Z.

We're left with the illusion that we're in Vegas.

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday; 7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday through Jan. 4, Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway

TICKETS $47-$157; 212-382-0100,

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