According to Kevin James, there’s no such thing as real magic.
“We don’t claim to have any supernatural powers,” said James, one of five magicians in the lineup for “The Illusionists — Live from Broadway,” coming to Proctors for three shows Friday and Saturday. “Yeah, it’s all tricks.”
But those tricks are amazing. Joining James on stage in what is hailed as the “world’s best-selling touring magic show,” are four other talented magicians who, like James, have performed around the world.
“We have five world-class magicians all with different styles and different vibes you could say,” said James, who has been with the show since it opened on Broadway five years ago. “We are extremely well produced. We travel with three semi trucks and a cast and crew of about 40 people. It’s high energy, with lots of audience participation. We even do things right down in the middle of the audience.”
James was born in France to American parents, but grew up in the small town of Jonesville, Michigan. He studied drama at Western Michigan University for a while before dropping out and heading to Los Angeles to become a professional magician, which was always what he wanted to become.
“When I saw my first magician I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” he said. “I never wanted to be a fireman or an astronaut. I skipped all that.”
James left California and worked in Paris and other parts of France for years before heading back to the U.S. and landing a regular gig in Las Vegas. He’s been at it long enough now that he’s become as knowledgeable as anyone about the history of magic.
“The heyday for magic was, I would say, between 1895 and 1935,” said James. “Those were considered the golden years. Then it kind of laid dormant until Doug Henning woke us all up in the 1970s. The resurgence, sparked by Henning and David Copperfield in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, helped us find some new life with David Blaine on television.”
Along with performing himself, James has rented out some of his best tricks to other magicians.
“Occasionally I put some things on the market that other magicians can use,” he said. “Some big headliner will approach me and ask me, ‘can I add that to my act?’ and we’ll work something out. And I never stop creating new illusions. I’ve got three new parts to my act I can’t wait to try out in Schenectady.”
Here’s a quick description of the five magicians performing at Proctors, beginning with James, and provided by the show’s producers.
“The Inventor,” known for innovative illusions, James is an inventor, comedian and collector of the strange and unusual. Kevin is one of the most prolific inventors of magic in the world and has created some of the most celebrated illusions of the last century.
“The Trickster,” Jeff Hobson is the epitome of glamour and showmanship. Don’t be fooled by his innocent appearance; Jeff has audiences laughing long after the curtain goes down.
“The Deductionist,” Colin Cloud, one of the greatest thought readers of all time, is a psychic savant known as a real-life Sherlock Holmes. Don’t play against him in a game of poker — he’s never lost.
“The Manipulator,” An Ha Lim, the first-place winner at Korea’s Busan International Magic Competition (2206), Italy Club Convention Manipulation (2006) and World Magic Seminar in Asia (2007), An Ha Lim was also a Golden Lion Award winner at the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas (2008).
“The Daredevil,” Jonathan Goodwin is widely considered one of the most creative, skilled, and frankly crazy stunt performers int he world. He is an accomplished knife thrower, archer, escape artist, fakir, martial artist, free diver and free climber. Unlike the other performers in the show, Jonathan is not a magician or illusionist, but he will leave the audience breathless with his death-defying stunts.
‘The Illusionists — Live from Broadway’
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: $75-$20
MORE INFO: 518-346-6204, www.proctors.org