THEATER REVIEW: Champions of Magic at PlayhouseSquare by Roy Berko


Sat 1/6

Say the words “magician” or “illusionist,” and the names usually conjured are David Copperfield, Harry Houdini, Uri Geller, Doug Henning, David Blaine and the Amazing Johnathan. These are entertainers noted for tricks and actions shrouded in secrecy and mystery.

“The secrets of the world’s greatest magic tricks are known by few, revered by many, and shared by almost no one.” The major goal of a proficient magician is to encourage the audience to ask, “How’d they do that?”

Champions of Magic, which is now onstage at the Connor Palace, is a troop of four Brits and an American (a woman), who are world class illusionists. Their acts consist of mind reading, small scale illusions, disappearances, teleportation, spectacular lighting effects, pyrotechnics, exploding confetti and the ongoing joke about red and green flashing lights.

No, they don’t make airplanes disappear, bend spoons through mental manipulation or escape from chains while submerged in water. They do the usual stuff — saw a lovely lady in half, conjure up information, do card tricks, use audience members as willing subjects, and tell stories and jokes to entertain.

Champions of Magic appeared for the first time in October 2013, and has since completed five UK tours and an extended run in London. This fall they started a North American tour. The show has been seen by over 250,000 people and received generally positive reviews.

The production features mostly original magic that was created or devised by the performers and production designers. The show is known for its production qualities including original music, a large lighting rig and pyrotechnic effects.

The first act contains lots of small illusions, lots of talking, and leaves the audience wanting more. The second act, when they try to make their act bigger and more spectacular so they can appear in Las Vegas, hold most of the intriguing actions.

Worry not where you are seated. A large television screen shows close-ups of the sleight-of-hand and intricate illusions.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: Though Champions of Magic is billed as “a perfect show for the whole family,” it may not appeal to the younger ones. A five-year-old seated next to me several times said to her mother, “When is there going to be fun?” The older kids and adults seemed to be well entertained and enthusiastic, but not ecstatic.

Due to ticket demand, the run of Champions of Magic has been extended to include a show Sat 1/ 6 @ 3pm. Tickets can be ordered by calling 216-241-6000 or going to

[Written by Roy Berko, Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle]

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