NEW YORK — One grew up idolizing Harry Houdini. The other worshipped David Copperfield. Now they’re both in a place known more for jazz hands than sleight of hand.
Italy’s star escape artist Andrew Basso and American Adam Trent, who focuses on technology-based tricks, are two of the seven magicians set to play Broadway this winter in the show “The Illusionists.” It will run at the Marriott Marquis Theatre from Nov. 26-Jan. 4.
“It’s been almost 20 years since magic has been on Broadway. To me, it’s been long overdue. But maybe it’s been gone for a reason. It’s been waiting for something like this,” Trent said.
The rest of the lineup includes Belgium’s weapon specialist Aaron Crow, campy magician Jeff Hobson, illusionist and “America’s Got Talent” veteran Kevin James, macabre specialist Dan Sperry and Yu Ho-Jin, a Korean who just won the title of “Magician of the Year.”
The goal is to do with magic what Cirque du Soleil did with circus — get rid of the dated lions and sequins and make it adult, sophisticated fun. The show has a throbbing rock beat and intelligent pacing.
Basso and Trent stopped by The Associated Press to tease their upcoming show. On camera, Trent made a bunch of playing cards appear and disappear, took a bite out of one only for it to instantly return and set a lighter label on fire. Basso told a story of once getting much too close to fire himself.
A few years ago, Basso was shackled in an explosive-rigged wooden coffin and had 60 seconds to escape before a speeding car crashed the coffin. “I needed 55 seconds to escape.” Well, the car crashed and he escaped, but the blast was 10 times bigger than it had been at rehearsal, for still-unknown reasons. Basso suffered severe burns. But “I will not stop doing it,” he vowed.
In the show, Basso will recreate Houdini’s famous Water Torture Cell — he’ll be put face-first into a tank of water with his feet manacled. This time, though, there will be no covers on the tank to hide any tricks.
Trent, who grew up in Boulder, Colorado, wearing out VHS tapes of Copperfield TV specials, calls himself “The Futurist” because he likes to mix comedy, technology and music into his act, something the old school of magic has resisted.
The world of magic is “going through extreme growing pains,” he said. “A lot of the young guys want to present it in a fresh way and a lot of the older guys think it should stay a certain way.”
Trent said innovation in magic is slow, partly because magicians are loath to reveal their new techniques or tricks. “The same basic principles in magic are used over and over again but they’re dressed up differently,” he said.
“So whether it’s a card trick or you make that card an iPhone, it’s the same exact sleight of hand. But when you change the object and present it differently, it does become something new.”