Broadway in Hawaii has brought some of the biggest musicals from the Great White Way to the islands. Honolulu theater lovers have been treated to hits such as “Wicked” and “The Phantom of the Opera” in recent years. On the way are “Rent” and “Jersey Boys.”
But up next is a show unlike any of those. Where those musicals all brought the so-called “magic of Broadway,” “The Illusionists” comes to town next week bringing literal magic, with five performers putting their varied talents on display for Hawaii audiences.
Producer Simon Painter said he launched the show in Sydney in 2012 because he felt magic was “underrepresented in the world.” He wanted to knock the dust off the medium and “do to magic what Cirque du Soleil did to circus — contemporize it, pull it into the 21st century, and really put on something that’s almost like a circus of magic — (take) the very best people in their respective fields and you put them on stage together,” he said in a phone call from the show’s offices in Los Angeles.
In the seven years since — and five years since its Broadway debut — Painter has built a stable of 20-plus performers who rotate through the touring cast. Each show includes five to seven, featuring skills ranging from mind-reading to conjuring to manipulation.
The family-friendly shows at the Blaisdell Concert Hall will include five performers:
>> An Ha Lim, “The Manipulator” — the South Korean has won awards all over the world, including a “gold medal” at the Federation International Society of Magic, which Painter calls “the Olympics of magic.” Painter calls him “probably the greatest card manipulator of all time.”
>> Paul Dabek, “The Trickster” — the British magician is the closest thing the show has to an emcee. “He provides the comedy element of the show,” Painter said. “It’s very important that the show is funny, and he really does bring that kind of comedy element.”
>> Sabine van Diemen, “The Sorceress” — Painter calls the former “Holland’s Got Talent” competitor “probably the world’s most skillful female magician … she specializes in stage illusions, using different types of props to perform magic.”
>> Raymond Crowe, “The Unusualist” — the Australian can be hard to pin down, as his magic act calls on his diverse talent for physical comedy. As he said on “Live with Kelly and Michael” a few years ago, “I get to do a bit of magic, a bit of ventriloquism, a bit of hand shadows, some mime.”
>> Jonathan Goodwin, “The Daredevil” — “What he does isn’t actually magic,” Painter admits. “He does incredibly dangerous stunts (including) lying on a bed of nails that’s one nail” and “an amazing act with a scorpion.”
Goodwin’s act may seem out of place in a magic show, but the Welshman, who now makes his home in Las Vegas, sees the legendary Harry Houdini as the missing link.
His father bought him a book on the “escape GOAT” (“greatest of all time”) when Goodwin was 7.
“Like any 7-year-old, I was fascinated with the characters, you know, superheroes, so the thing that was interesting to me about him was that he was real. He really did the things that I read about,” Goodwin said in a recent phone conversation. “Once I realized that you could do that as a job, I never really wanted to do anything else.”
He notes that Houdini was not just an escape artist.
“(Houdini) did magic tricks as well,” Goodwin said, “and because of it, magic and danger have always sort of been tied together. The show itself is a little bit like ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ magic show. There’s really something for everybody.”
Goodwin was recruited into the show about six years ago by Mark Kalin, then a performer and now a creative director. When offered a spot with “The Illusionists,” Goodwin initially declined.
“I’ve always sort of tried to distance myself from that world a little bit,” he said, “because I think if people think of what I do as a trick, it kind of undermines it. And then I thought to myself, ‘You know, maybe I’m the only person who cares.’ ”
Goodwin called back to accept — and the experience has been “a bit of a dream come true,” he said.
“To be able to tour the world and perform to thousands of people every night. It’s really living the dream for me.”
At the heart of Goodwin’s act is how close he can come to no longer living that dream. He made a run to the final of “Britain’s Got Talent” with a trio of death-defying stunts: blindfolded chicken with crossbows, escape from a straitjacket while on fire and a twist on being buried alive that takes the ages-old stunt a few steps past its origins.
The last of those stunts is the only one of those he will perform here, because it is the only one of them that is road-friendly. It was conceived by his daughter, Milli, when she was 6.
Goodwin said it wasn’t the first shot Milli took at suggesting a predicament for him to escape. Others were not quite right, but this one, he said, was “too good of an idea to dismiss.”
Since his dad bought him that Houdini book when he was so young, Goodwin has sort of been raised as a daredevil. He learned core skills such as holding his breath before introducing the riskier aspects of escape work.
Gradual growth has helped keep the fear that might go along with his act at bay. Well, that and genetics, he said.
“My dad was a cop and a fireman, and he’s a very unflappable character, and I guess one of the things he gave me was the ability to not get overwhelmed by a stressful situation. …
“I’m sort of a jack of all trades, master of none really, but I think if there’s one thing I’m any good at, a natural ability that helps to do what I do, it’s that I don’t get stressed out.
“There will be situations — and (I will) not panic and ultimately die. A very useful skill to do my job.
“I broke down everything I have to do into little chunks … and you concentrate on each one of those things,” he said. “If all of a sudden you allow yourself to think about the whole big picture — all of the bad things that can happen — it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. You’ve got to concentrate on the task at hand.”