There are magic shows that could take place comfortably in your living room. Then there’s The Illusionists: Magic of the Holidays. Just like concerts put on by boy bands, the magic of the Illusionists partly lies in the energy (and participation) of the audience. In other words, the best way to experience this show is to throw caution to the wind: grab a drink, buy some swag, and give yourself permission to have a good time. Broadway Spin caught up with Adam Trent, one of the five magicians that bring the bling to Broadway this holiday season.
Broadway Spin: What makes The Illusionists different from other magic shows?
Adam Trent: Four years ago, when The Illusionists ran on Broadway, it was the first time that magic was on Broadway in about 20 years. The last time before that was David Copperfield — so it is bringing something new to theater. This year, The Illusionists has five magicians, and everyone does a unique kind of magic. I personally do a lot of audience participation, but each magician is different and we come together to make a whole. It’s kind of like we’re a boy band of magic.
BS: Do all of you know how the others do their tricks?
AT: It’s one of those things where the first time you see it there’s certainly details you don’t know. But we’re doing about 60 or 80 shows on Broadway, so, you know, watching it backstage for that many shows, if we don’t know it at the beginning we’ll certainly know by the end.
BS: Has there ever been a trick you haven’t been able to figure out?
AT: All the time. All the time. I’m constantly fooled by magic – just not after I’ve seen the same trick 60 times.
BS: What’s your first memory of magic?
AT: I saw David Copperfield when I was about eight years old, and I remember it being was the first form of entertainment my whole family had fun with. Before then, we’d go to a musical and my dad was bored; we’d go to a play and the kids were bored. Magic was the first thing we all loved. Shortly after that I got a whole book on magic for my birthday, and I started doing little kids’ birthday party shows. One thing led to the next, and you know, 25 years later I’m still doing it.
BS: Was there a moment where you realized you were actually going to be making a living doing this?
AT: Totally. I actually went to college and got a business degree, but I always knew magic was going to be the thing. I put myself through college doing it, so I had already monetized it a bit, but after college I street performed for two years. That was kind of the nit and grit part of it where I was borderline homeless performing on the street in Los Angeles. But then I booked a cruise line, and that was the point where I breathed a sigh of relief. I remember thinking, “Okay, at least I can make real money doing this, and there’s somewhat of a plan here.” Plus, I had a place to sleep and people came to the show to actually see me as opposed to kind of running into me on the street. (Laughs) They didn’t even know a show was happening; I’d just start doing it.
BS: That sounds rough.
AT: The whole thing about entertainment, is that there’s no real set path. If you want to become a great lawyer, you at least know what to do. You go to law school, you take the tests, you get a job at a law firm and you work like crazy and eventually you’ll move up. Entertainment is a very different thing. There are countless ways to get there. You can go to school, not go to school, get a mentor. You just have to be very tenacious.
BS: Do you have a mentor.
AT: I don’t, no. I never did. Wow, that sounds sad, right? (Laughs)
BS: Have you ever had a trick not work during a show?
AT: Things constantly go wrong, but that’s part of the excitement of live entertainment.
BS: How do you recover when that happens?
AT: It depends on how bad the mistake is. If it’s something I know that I can kind of pass off as not being wrong, I’ll keep going. But, if it’s one of those things where the audience knows something went wrong, then I’m the type to acknowledge it and laugh at it. I try to be lighthearted about it. This is all meant to be fun.