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July 5, 2014

Broadway conjures magic with 'The Illusionists'

This marks first time in 20 years that magic show plays Broadway

NEW YORK (AP) — Magic will be take center stage on Broadway this winter in a new, high-paced show but don't expect just one illusionist with a trick up his sleeve. Try seven.

"The Illusionists" starring seven international stars of magic — ranging from a card conjurer to a wizard with a crossbow — will play the Marriott Marquis Theatre from Nov. 26-Jan. 4, the first time in almost 20 years that a magic show plays Broadway.

"We're going to bring magic back to how it's supposed to be — a good, solid, inspiring sort of form of entertainment," said Dan Sperry, whose macabre show often features spinning blades and whose motto is "Magic No Longer Sucks."

The rest of the lineup includes Italy's star escape artist Andrew Basso, Belgium's weapon specialist Aaron Crow, campy magician Jeff Hobson, illusionist and "America's Got Talent" veteran Kevin James and Yu Ho-Jin, a Korean who just won the title of "Magician of the Year."

"The idea was to take the seven greatest living illusionists in their respective fields and put them together. It's almost like The Avengers of magic," said Simon Painter, the show's originator and lead producer.

The show first sold out at the Sydney Opera House in 2012 and went on to play Singapore, Mexico, New Zealand, Brazil, Venezuela and Britain. A new version focusing on futuristic acts — "Illusionists 2.0" — debuted last year in Australia and a hybrid of the two shows now comes to Broadway, called "Witness the Impossibe." Tickets go on sale Tuesday.

Painter's goal is to do with magic what Cirque du Soleil did with circus — get rid of the dated lions and sequins and make it adult, sophisticated fun. His show has a throbbing rock beat and intelligent pacing.

"What we've done is make it a theatrical experience rather than it being a flashy, Las Vegas, showmanship experience. The theatricality was an important change that we made," he said.

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