Abracadabra: Jeff Hobson and ‘The Illusionists’ appear at the Segerstrom Center

What do you get when you combine Las Vegas magic with Broadway pizzazz? An electrifying magic show on steroid’s combining seven legendary Illusionists with high tech extravaganza. This isn’t your Uncle Joe’s magic show; it’s a mix of comedy, magic, danger and acts of awe-inspiring wonder. The magical sensation “The Illusionists,” running at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts Feb. 2 -7, will render patrons spellbound. It is no hocus, pocus that the roster of “The Illusionists” reads like a gang of comic book superheroes. Jeff Hobson, aka "The Trickster," explains that his moniker and that of his fellow Illusionists was given to them by the show’s producer, Simon Painter. Hobson, who as the show’s host works the crowd, says he’s “The Trickster” because “I’m more light-hearted, not so serious. I’m more of a pickpocket, a scammer, more irreverent. I’m a naughty boy, stealing things from the audience.” Hobson is a comedian as well as a magician and as host he keeps things together and moving in this show that can be compared to Cirque du Soleil with magic because of its variety and the razzamatazz staging. Sharing top billing with Hobson are Yu Ho-Jin, a rising superstar in the world of magic; Dan Sperry, The Anti- Conjuror, described as Marilyn Manson meets David Copperfield because he merges magic with the macabre; Andrew Basso, The Escapologist, an Italian Houdini; Kevin James, The Inventor, is an inventor of magic, a comedian and collector of the strange and unusual; Ben Blaque, The Weapon Master who performs incredibly dangerous acts using crossbows; and Jonathan Goodwin, a stunt performer like no other. As “The Illusionists” tours the world, some acts have disappeared and others reappear in their place. It isn’t magic that there are always seven sensational stars on stage and that "The Trickster," Hobson, has led the parade of magic men through the show’s four year run. As a professional magician, Hobson has transformed from “Host of Las Vegas” to host of “The Illusionists.” He’s a natural showman, not just because of his magical abilities; he’s won numerous awards for magic, but also because of his comedic skills. Hobson became enthralled with magic around age 7, but has always been the class clown. “I’m a big fan of old school comedians and when I realized I had a gift for making people laugh that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life," Hobson said. "From Vegas to Broadway and beyond, I’ve been living the dream for three decades.” For Hobson, magic and comedy are intertwined, so what came first, the chicken or the egg?” “It was comedy first, but magic was my hobby from an early age and is my first love. It always enthralls and intrigues folks," Hobson said. "They want to figure it out; they’re curious and become awe-inspired not knowing how it’s done. Laughter is healthy and puts people in a better place. I perform both so when people don’t laugh, there’s still magic. I have them going both ways and that’s a gift I can give audiences.” Speaking of eggs, Hobson is well-known for the egg and bag trick, which he describes as the simplest trick in the world. He says “you put an egg into a bag; egg disappears and reappears, so what! Magic has nothing to do with the trick; its 90 percent presentation. It is how you do it, what you say and to sell it is the key. I sell it better than other magicians. That’s why I’m famous for it.” “The Illusionists” is more than a Las Vegas style magical revue; it’s a full scale Broadway production. Hobson explains “In ‘The Illusionists’ each performer is a mini-show within a show and the staging includes original music, dramatic components, specialized lightning. It has Broadway elements and to fulfill the directors and producers visions it needs a Broadway type theater. Certainly it could be done in Vegas but just not as well. There is something special about large theaters that Las Vegas showrooms just don’t have.” “The Illusionists” is not your average magic show. “Our show brings seven world class illusionists together on one stage," Hobson said. "It’s never been done like we’re doing it with state of the art technology and high definition screens to show the magic up close so audiences don’t miss anything. We’re the avengers of magic, each with unique superpower skills. “ “The Illusionists” is an action packed spectacle of large scale visional intensity that includes dramatic lightning, explosions, fire elements, dancers and a live band. As an added element the entertainers perform individual acts and share the mystical spotlight in ensemble pieces. “The appeal to audiences is the diverse styles of enchantment, each sorcerer displays his own brand of wizardry and a variety of talents are showcased,” said Hobson. “Audience participation in the show is important because it lets the spectators see that astonishing phenomenons are actually happening, that we’re not pulling the wool over their eyes. Of course, there are always skeptics so audience members verify the magic and large screens engage people at a distance in the storyline and draw them into the drama.” The world of magic is a small one. What Hobson likes best about “The Illusionists” is working with his friends and viewing them from the wings as they professionally entertain. He says “It’s great to watch artists who know their craft so well. My show highlight is seeing the audience having a great time and watching the conjurers cast their spells, moving people from being unsure about what’s happening to standing ovations.” Hobson urges folks from five to 105 to see “The Illusionists,” saying “it’s a family show for all ages and a once in a lifetime opportunity to see seven brilliant magicians perform breathtaking wonders on one stage.” Fall under the spell of “The Illusionists” at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Feb. 2 – 7. For tickets and information, in person at The Box Office, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa 92626; By phone, 714- 556-2787; or online at SCFTA.org. Hours are 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily.

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