In media interviews, we often get asked who our favourite illusionists are. Naturally, due to limited space or time, we never get to go into any great details. So, I thought I would share my favourite illusionists to watch.
This list is confined to stage illusionists; not close-up magicians, stage magicians, mentalists or any other genre of magical entertainers. While all these performers naturally can and do perform other forms of magic, it is in the field of theatrical grand illusion that they made their mark.
This group of magicians is based on my personal preferences and what I like in an illusion performance. Well, I should start off by saying what I do not like in an illusion act. I do not like the cookie-cutter production show type illusion show with multiple dancers who do not add anything to the magic. I also do not like obligatory dancing before and after an illusion.
And finally, I hate seeing the same 12 illusions being performed the exact same way; Sub Trunk, Fire Cage, Twister, Interlude, Origami, Fire Spiker, Compressed, Modern Art, Bowl-a-Rama, Snowing, Suspended Animation and Mini Kube Zag. Distinct style and flair is very important to me and an illusionist must add their own touch to an illusion, even if it may be a stock illusion.
David Copperfield (U.S.A.)
He is the the greatest illusionist of all time and is responsible for influencing the work of probably 90% of the top working illusionists today. He is in a league of his own and has set a standard that is unlikely to be achieved by an individual for stage illusions. His 1989 – 1993 years were awesome and his contributions to the field of illusions is also unlikely to be matched. I actually like the present-day Copperfield the best as he has less dancing and a more streamlined presentation to the magic. He has dozens of illusions that are performed to perfection and captured on video. However, a life-transforming experience for me was watching his “Flying” illusion in 1993 on VHS tape. The original version that was aired in his “Flying” TV special is still the best presentation because it includes the video montage of past attempts of people trying to fly.
Luis De Matos (Portugal)
While you might think he bears physical similarities to Copperfield in terms of look and appearance, Luis is very much his own illusionist with a distinct style. He is Portugal’s top illusionist and I have an even greater respect for his work after reading his cover story in MAGIC magazine several months ago. He has a very classy and theatrical style to his presentation and illusion and the late-Gary Ouelett’s influence is evident in his work. Check out the first of 3 parts of highlights of a huge show he staged a couple of years ago.
Hans Klok (Holland)
Holland’s top illusionist and currently one of the hottest illusionists in the world. He is known for his fast performance style and has the best assistants in the world. Hans looks like a real life “Prince Charming” from “Shrek” and his performance style and presentations for illusions are copied by many around the world. He is the single reason we see so many “Suspended Animations”, “Fire Cages” and “Fire Spikers” being performed around the world… sadly, mostly pirated and unauthorized props. In 2007, he headlined his own Vegas show with Pamela Anderson as his special guest assistant. Here is an incredible performance from the World Magic Awards 2007.
Mark Kalin & Jinger (U.S.A.)
One of the best husband/ wife magic teams in the world. They have a distinctive style of illusion performance and I love their onstage chemistry. Their chemistry reminds me of Ning & myself although ‘Magic Babe’ is nothing like Jinger in terms of stage character/ style. Jinger is also more of lead assistant and dancer than a solo magician. Mark is a brilliant illusion designer and has given the magic world several notable illusions including the “Fire Spiker” (which Hans Klok modified quite significantly) and “Eclispe” illusion, which is getting a bit too common among top pros around the world. Jinger is also smoking hot! Kalin & Jinger perform the best presentation of the Alan Wakeling Sawing that is also copied by many performers around the world. See it below.
Franz Harary (U.S.A.)
Franz is probably the most underrated and unknown illusionist although he has one of the biggest shows on the planet. What makes him unique is also that he designs all of his own illusions and they are often “monsterous” in size with real cutting edge design. I had the good fortunate of having breakfast with him a couple of years ago and got an insight into his mind. He is an incredible businessman and knows how to create work and a market for himself. Among his original illusions, he gave the magic world “Slicer” or “Janet Box” (as it was originally designed for Janet Jackson for a concert tour). IMO, he has the best version of a burned alive stage illusion. Criss Angel has the best visual illusion made for TV but Franz’s is what a modern burned alive illusion should look like. Watch it below:
Steve Wyrick (U.S.A.)
Steve gets a lot of criticism from magicians because he has family wealth that has allowed him to build his own show and theatre in Las Vegas. Life is not fair…but at least his money is legal and ethical. Plus, he does put in a lot of effort to make his illusion presentations elaborate, spectacular and current – something I really appreciate. While he does not really have any wholly original illusions, he does have the largest illusions in the world in a single show. He has also got the best and hottest dancers in Vegas. (Even his harshest critics agree on this point). Check out the video below. While an educated audience will know that he liberally adopted the dramatic premise and plot of Copperfield’s “Snowing” illusion and “Grandpa Aces” routine, he applied it to another elaborate illusion sequence with a cool kicker.
Jan Rouven (Germany)
Jan reminds of the highly trained, well financed and slick European bad guys from the Die Hard movies. A cliched image but I guess there is no one like that in magic. He performs his illusions with a distinct style; showy yet cool and sophisticated in a way. I think he perfoms the best “Jet Turbine” illusion. Here is a clip of him performing Kalin’s “Eclispe” illusion. It is my favourite presentation of all performers. Ryan Joyce from Canada does an excellent presentation which is theatrically superior and has better sound design but Jan’s presentation has a cool urban feel which appeals to me more.
Michael Barron (U.S.A.)
Michael’s name will be unfamiliar to most as he is an upcoming illusionist with lots of promise. I really like his approach and depth in his thinking of all to present classic illusions and effects. In my previous popular entry on “Why do illusionists perform the same illusions?”, I highlighted Michael’s presentation for the “Mini Kube Zag” illusion. It is current, cool and features a wicked looking original design. He also has a David Cook thing going.
‘Magic Babe’ Ning (Singapore)
There is really no female illusionist that I really like to watch… except ‘Magic Babe’. Her onstage character appeals to me and evidently others as well; as seen from this blogger. But, more specifically, she also adds her idiosyncratic touches, gestures and looks that just make the performance hers. It looks good, is captivating and helps makes my videos totally watchable. I love the choreography she brings to our “Crystal Metamorphosis” illusion and how she chains up the prop with attitude and control.