Metro-East Living

‘The Illusionists’ will rekindle childhood wonderment of magic

The Illusionists are coming to St. Louis’ Fabulous Fox Theatre and performing Friday, March 31 through Sunday, April 2.
The Illusionists are coming to St. Louis’ Fabulous Fox Theatre and performing Friday, March 31 through Sunday, April 2.

Magician Kevin James likes to rekindle wonderment for his audience.

“I want them to find that sense of wonder again they had as a child,” he said during a phone interview.

Known as “The Inventor” in the innovative seven-man show “The Illusionists,” James will bring his blend of comedy and magic to the Fabulous Fox Theatre for five shows this weekend.

“The Illusionists,” the best-selling national touring magic show of all time, premiered on Broadway in 2014 and became one of the highest-grossing productions. In 2015, it broke house records at the Neil Simon Theatre and became the sixth-highest-growing show that year. In various incarnations and with a rotating cast, the show is now on tour as “Live from Broadway,” and will stop at more than 50 cities, including St. Louis.

Think of it as the Cirque du Soleil of magic. James said people can expect to be amazed and delighted.

“They will see things they have never seen before and will remember for a very long time,” he said.

The show is suitable for families.

“It’s not a kids’ show, but it is kid-friendly,” he said.

Creative Producer Simon Painter concurred. “We can’t wait to bring this electrifying show to St. Louis for a truly entertaining experience for the whole family. ‘The Illusionists’ is the most nonstop and powerful mix of outrageous and astonishing acts ever to be seen on the live stage,” he said.

Besides James, the headlining performers are global stars each with their own specialty:

▪ Dan Sperry, “The Anti-Conjuror.” Described as Marilyn Manson meets David Copperfield, he combines magic with the macabre. He was a finalist on the fifth season of “America’s Got Talent,” and now is one of the top-10 most Googled people.

▪ Jeff Hobson, “The Trickster.” He is the epitome of glamor and showmanship, but do not be fooled by his appearance.

▪ Andrew Basso, “The Escapologist.” Italy’s star escape artist, he is a fan of Houdini. He considers Houdini a hero and is the only person in the world to perform Houdini’s famous Water Torture Cell with absolutely no covers.

▪ Colin Cloud, “The Deductionist.” One of the greatest thought-readers of all time, he is a psychic savant known as a real-life Sherlock Holmes. And he’s never lost at poker.

▪ Jonathan Goodwin, “The Daredevil.” Widely considered one of the most creative, skilled and frankly crazy stunt performers in the world, he is an accomplished knife thrower, archer, escape artists, fakir, martial artist, free diver and free climber. He is not a magician, but his death-defying stunts will leave the audience in awe.

▪ An Ha Lim, “The Manipulator.” This award-winning artist has earned first place at Korea’s Busan International Magic Competition (2006), Italy Club Convention Manipulation (2006) and World Magic Seminar in Asia (2007). He was also a Golden Lion Award winner at the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas (2008).

“It’s a big smorgasbord with seven different people — all different and they are among the best at what they do,” Painter said.

As a prolific inventor of cutting-edge magic effects, James came up with the “Floating Rose” trick that David Copperfield admired so much, he bought it, and performs it.

“It’s still in his live show,” James said.

James likes keeping his segment interactive.

“That really keeps it fresh and fun for the audience,” he said. “What people say and do becomes part of the act, and it’s in the moment, and I just roll with it. It really makes it fun for us, too.”

James, 55, was fascinated by magic at a young age. His father was an Air Force pilot, but they eventually settled in Michigan, and James grew up in the small town of Jonesville.

“Doug Henning pretty much sealed the deal, and I knew I wanted to do magic the rest of my life,” he said.

He said his parents encouraged him.

“They helped me do it, but used it as some sort of carrot — like ‘if you get good grades,’” he said.

He started performing at birthday parties, Cub Scouts and such civic organizations as Lions Clubs, then went on to be a strolling magician at pizza parlors and restaurants. He moved to L.A., and while bartending, performed magic.

Magic has taken him around the world, and he has performed on television in 25 countries.

In the U.S., he gained wider recognition on the second season of “America’s Got Talent,” and has been featured with “The Illusionists” for the past five years. This tour began in September 2016 and runs through June.

He enjoys being part of this group.

“They are inventive. They are big characters, and it’s a good playground to be a part of,” James said. “We talk about new ideas and career direction. They are really good people and fun to hang around.”

James has created some of the most memorable illusions during the last century.

The famous Magic Castle in Hollywood named him “Parlour Magician of the Year” in 2003; the International Magicians Society dubbed him “Most Original” in 2005. He won Best Comedic Illusionist at the World Magic Awards in 2007.

In August, he returns to Las Vegas and the Magic Castle to perform, then resumes touring with “The Illusionists.”

James thinks TV exposure has made magic more popular, and such prominent magicians as Penn and Teller and Chriss Angel headline Vegas shows. James said he has played in every casino in Vegas.

Touring is a way of life, and he shows no signs of slowing down.

“Magic is my passion. I’m living my dream,” he said.

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At a Glance

What: “The Illusionists – Live from Broadway”

When: Friday, March 31 – Sunday, April 2

Where: The Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand Ave., St. Louis

Information and tickets:, MetroTix: (314)-534-1111