Direct from Broadway, The Illusionists, the world’s best-selling magic show is currently on not only a North American tour, but also a World Tour. Showcasing the talents of some of the most mind-blowing illusionists ever assembled on one stage, The Illusionists show is heading to Nashville for a limited three-day engagement from Friday, February 16-Sunday, February 18 at TPAC‘s Jackson Hall. A magic fan from way back, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with five of the tour’s headliners for the latest installment of my recurring celebrity interview, Rapid Fire.
Rapid Fire with The Illusionists’ Jonathan Goodwin, Kevin James, Jeff Hobson, An Ha Lim and Colin Cloud
Rapid Fire with Jonathan Goodwin, The Illusionists’ Daredevil
JONATHAN PINKERTON: OK, I had to chat with you first, one because your first name is just awesome, and two, my Mom’s maiden name just so happens to be Goodwin. While the show is titled The Illusionists, your official bio and show moniker is quick to point out, you’re not an illusionist, but rather a daredevil. What was your first daredevil feat?
JONATHAN GOODWIN: I stretched a bedsheet from the headboard to the footboard of my bed, so it was tied about 2ft above the bed. I had my dad tie me to the bed, and place a hot iron onto the sheet. My challenge was to escape before the iron burned through and hit me in the chest.
JP: What’s more intoxicating…the adrenaline rush of doing these acts, or the audience’s response to your death-defying ways?
JONATHAN GOODWIN: It’s definitely a combination. The rush from success is great, but when the audience reaction hits you, and you realize there were two thousand people rooting for you; that is a whole extra level of exhilaration.
JP: Many of your previous deeds have been performed on a very grand scale…one example, hanging by your toes from a helicopter. How challenging is it for you to then simultaneously scale back the grandeur in the relative confines of a touring show like The Illusionists, while still bringing the excitement?
JONATHAN GOODWIN: It’s a challenge for sure, but we actually manage to bring a decent amount of scale to this show. I hang from my teeth 20ft in the air, and we also shoot a chain reaction of six crossbows on stage. The last bow is aiming at my chest and I have to catch the arrow before it hits me.
Rapid Fire with Kevin James, The Illusionists’ Inventor
JP: Just gonna ask…Do you ever get mistaken for comedy actor Kevin James or TV’s Kevin Can Wait?
KEVIN JAMES: Sure, but I had my name before he became so famous.
JP: In The Illusionists, your billed as The Inventor. How did that designation come to be?
KEVIN JAMES: The Producer asked us to find a character that would highlight our specialty in magic. He said if you were a magic superhero, what would your super power be? Because I invent my own magic, I thought The Inventor would be a nice big playground to play in. We do kind of look like The Avengers on the poster.
JP: I understand you have a familial connection to P.T. Barnum. How exactly are you related to The Greatest Showman?
KEVIN JAMES: My fathers mother is related to PT’s second daughters husband, Samuel Hurd. He was PT’s right hand man for many years. So it is not by blood but it is still on the tree. The funny part is that PT and I have so many similar likes. He loved the strange and unusual as do I. He had Tom Thumb work with him for many years, I have Antonio Hoyos who has been with me for 33 years. PT was also a magician and loved magic. I have this feeling that we would have gotten along splendidly.
JP: As a kid, I remember being fascinated with magicians like Doug Henning and David Copperfield. Both of which have adapted magic you’ve invented into their shows. To that end, you’re credited with Illusion Design on Copperfield’s 1991 TV special, Mystery on the Orient Express. What’s it like having magicians who you no doubt admired as a kid utilizing your gifts as an inventor in their own acts? It was amazing when it happened to have your idol perform one of your ideas on his TV special. Someone told me the other day that The Floating Rose, is the effect that has survived longest in Copperfield’s show. He still does it in his shows today. It validates you as a creator when the biggest guy on the block loves your work.
Rapid Fire with Jeff Hobson, The Illusionists’ Trickster
JP: Some of your fellow Illusionists co-stars take decidedly more serious approach to their craft, but as your eponym implies, yours is a more light-hearted comedic look at magic. Who were your influences in that regard growing up?
JEFF HOBSON: They were classic, non-magic, hero’s of entertainment. Danny Kaye, Red Skelton and Dick Van Dyke.
JP: What is it about magic that intrigues us all?
JEFF HOBSON: It makes the jaded adult realize they don’t know everything in life. Magic gives us a moment of astonishment that brings us all back to the wonderment of childhood. No other art form does that.
JP: Among your more beloved magic tricks, you have a penchant for snagging unsuspecting audience members watches as you make your way through the crowd. In the age of smartphones, have you ever encountered a watch-less audience?
JEFF HOBSON: It got to be that way over the past decade. Then….Thank God for Apple! Apple-Watches are the easiest watches to steal……EVER! (Note to audience – BEWARE!)
JP: Before joining The Illusionists, you created a similarly titled The Illusionarium, a truly magical immersive experience aboard a cruse ship. What was that like?
JEFF HOBSON: I was asked by Norwegian Cruise Line for a “pitch”. 2 days later I wrote “The Illusionarium”. It was the highest-rated show for the cruise line ever! It ran for over 4 years and was the most creative and fun outlet I’ve ever had. I look forward for another opportunity like it.
Rapid Fire with An Ha Lim, The Illusionists’ Manipulator
JP: What exactly is a ‘manipulator’?
AN HA LIM: Someone who uses a smooth slight of hand, magicians call this “ the flower of magic” It’s the most important skill a magician can have, and a great way to illustrate the beauty of magic.
JP: When did you discover the beauty of manipulation?
AN HA LIM: When I was in high school I saw another magician in South Korea—Lance Burton’s—video and I was enthralled. His card manipulation skills shocked me. At the time I had no idea I would end up following that inspiration to where I am today.
JP: While researching in preparation of our conversation, I watched a few of your performance clips. One thing I noticed…you have such great stage presence. Can you describe the joy it brings you to entertain an audience?
AN HA LIM: First, thank you so much for the lovely compliment. I actually work very hard to control all my emotions while performing onstage. If I allow nerves, or stress, or even too much joy, the emotions may affect my ability to execute my manipulation without mistakes. I actually work on being as stoic as possible.
JP: What’s your favorite aspect of touring with The Illusionists?
AN HA LIM: Being able to share this experience with such other great illusionists, as well as an amazing crew, who make the show happen wherever we are, no matter what the circumstances. Just me on stage by myself would not be half as beautiful as my being able to join such great magicians on stage. I am grateful to have such a great and hard working crew that keep us all on track. They make it possible for us to perform the same show for a new audience every night, and the love we get from the audience is brought to us by their hard work.
Rapid Fire with The Illusionists’ Deductionist, Colin Cloud
JP: Alright, I’m gonna admit it…I watched you on America’s Got Talent as did my 75-year-old Mom. Each week, we’d chat the next day and discuss in disbelief your latest appearance. Recently I had the opportunity to work the local auditions for AGT and definitely saw your influence in a few of the hopefuls I registered. What was your favorite aspect of being part of the show?
COLIN CLOUD: First of all, thank you for watching and supporting. That truly means a lot! I’ll be completely honest, this isn’t the type of show that I typically watch, so I had to do my research for it. What I realized through watching YouTube and speaking with the producers is that in recent years, it’s gone from being a show where they look to humiliate people and it’s transitioned into a show where they actually want acts to shine. And let’s face it, it’s in their best interest because people would’ve stopped auditioning otherwise. So what I enjoyed most was being able to bring fresh concepts for ‘events’ to the show. I knew it was highly unlikely I’d win, so instead, I focused on trying to make good TV I could be proud of. So I tried to give each piece a memorable or controversial hook. And it paid off! It paid off to the point that I even managed to trend higher on YouTube than Taylor Swift on the day she released her new music video. Which in this crazy era of online media is madness.
JP: You’re often referred to as the Sherlock Holmes of entertainment. Where you a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous fictional detective as a kid?
COLIN CLOUD: I discovered Sherlock when I was 8 years old and have been hooked every since. The stories have really grown on me as I’ve gotten older, but as a kid, I’d study them to find parts where he was going ‘the cool stuff.’ I’d immediately try to find ways to replicate his skills and amaze and astound family members and friends with various renditions of my Sherlockian skill set. Those simple ideas I played with all those years ago are now the backbone of everything I do on stage.
JP: For the three people who didn’t watch you on AGT, can you explain why you’re called The Deductionist?
COLIN CLOUD: Sherlock Holmes would ‘deduce’ things about people (technically he was inducing things, but let’s not get into that now!). So as it’s all based on deduction, I adopted the name … Deductionist. Also, whilst I’m a HUGE fan of the Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss series (and was lucky enough to work on the Sherlock iWonder event with them, there is an episode of Elementary—with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu—by the same name.
JP: OK, so my time with you and your Illusionists co-stars is up. One last question….How do you do it?
COLIN CLOUD: Oh wow, is that the time, I really should be going … not really, because unlike the other guys in the show who have trained for years at hiding skill and making it appear like real magic, my methods are things anyone could learn and i actually allude to how I know things whilst I perform. They’re all based in knowledge, understanding, deduction, observation and statistics and … so anyone could do it … with 30 years training.
With that expected, albeit hilariously evasive answer, just like that my hopes of learning trade secrets…as well as my time with The Illusionist…vanished into thin air.
Nashville audiences will get the chance to see them in action at TPAC’s Jackson Hall from Friday, February 16 thru Sunday, February 18. CLICK HERE for tickets. Not in Nashville? No worries. The Illusionists North American Tour continues with stops across the US and Canada with stops everywhere from Lexington, Kentucky to Kitchener, Ontario. CLICK HERE for tickets and show-dates.
If you’ve enjoyed this latest installment of my recurring celebrity interview feature, Rapid Fire, to check out previous conversations, CLICK HERE. You can also keep up with the latest news from The Illusionists by following them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
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