The title says it all. A group of talented performers promised a night of illusions and misdirection, and that was delivered. The 60th anniversary of this beloved show graced the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center (PAC) in a night of comedy and delightful tomfoolery.
Many in attendance, from the 5-year-olds the 95-year-olds, were delighted by the tricks and gimmicks the talented group of performers put on display. Cal Poly class of ’87 liberal studies alumna Barbra Philipp returned to the school for the first time since graduating to see the show, hoping for a cultured performance. Some were looking for a night out, like San Luis Obispo residents Stacy Combs and Anita Espinoza, self-described big kids. For the actual kids in the audience, the performers found a way to keep things family-friendly though most jokes probably flew over their heads.
“It was kid-friendly show appropriate for a college audience,” audience member Nathan Billings said.
The show was a classic magic night with quick changes, escapes and sawing a woman in half. The updated jokes on politics and celebrity trends made for an enjoyable night. Though no new tricks were presented, the executions of well-known illusions dazzled even the least gullible audience members.
Each act started in a silent trick, with music backing the magicians’ elaborate hand waving that made the audience question their every move. It is a magician’s job to cause complete distrust; we know they are lying to us with every move they make. Their real job, though, is to make every audience member walk out questioning how they could be tricked into believing that doves could really fly out of pockets as in Joel Ward’s act; or how they could be so easily deceived into Chris Blackmore’s ability to pick the exact card a woman had pulled from the deck of cards he subsequently shot into the air.
The performance was more than magic however, as magician Henrik Bothe showed that classic shows like “The Ed Sullivan Show” knew real entertainment. Escaping from a straightjacket while riding a unicycle was impressive, but his favorite trick from his favorite aforementioned show was where he spun eight plates at once, causing audience members to bite their nails. He was also the man behind a glow-in-the-dark act that used a glowing stickman who danced, juggled and did tricks for a dazzled audience. A crowd favorite, he stuck around signing autographs after the show.
“Just go for it, you never know what you can or can’t do until you try,” Bothe said, encouraging young aspiring magicians.
Some of the show’s real magic was in overcoming the unpredictability of live theater. Issues with music were mostly overcome with ease and grace. The way in which some handled their use of audience participation was effortless.
It was not perfect though, as a 5-year-old boy made putting a handkerchief in his pocket the most difficult part of a trick, or as a spoon missed the cup it was intended to flip into. But the quick wit and comedic timing of the magicians saved these moments from turning into disasters. While some jokes fell flat others were side-splitting hilarity.
The only act that didn’t feature an audience member was the quick change duo, David and Dania. With more than 10 different costumes, two different hairstyles and a dance routine matched to quick music, the two switched from costume to costume without a hitch.
Young and old enjoyed a night of mischievous misdirection and fascinating physical feats. A variety show of classic tricks, “It’s Magic!” made April Fool’s day magical.
History freshman Kyla Grant put it best: “It’s magic … No other words could describe it.”