Review: The Illusionists Experience in Reno


Last night I went to see The Illusionists Experience, a magic show with a residency for the next few months in Reno’s Eldorado.

The name is a little confusing, I think they just tacked on “Experience” as a way to differentiate it from their traveling sister show which is simply known as “The Illusionists.” Unlike the traveling show, the Experience has a fixed set of illusionists. They are, in order of left-to-right in the above photo:

  • Valentin, The Showman
  • David Williamson, The Trickster (and host)
  • Chris Cox, The Mentalist
  • Hyun Joon Kim, The Maniupulator
  • Krendl, The Escapist

The first trick is one you’ll have to perform on your own: finding the theater inside the enormous Eldorado casino floor. By the time I found it my eyes were watering from all the cigarette smoke.

In the theater lobby I picked up my will-call ticket and was directed to wait in one of the two lines. I bought the second most expensive ticket, which got me pretty close to the stage in the second row of seats. The priciest tickets get you a little table in the very front.

As we waited for people to file in, David invited us to come up to the bar at the front of the stage, grab a drink (champagne was free, at least with my ticket), fill out a small form for Chris Cox’s act and drop it in a box, and watch David’s up-close card tricks at the bar.

If you’re sitting in the back it’s not the end of the world though, they have crews walking around with live cameras projected on a large screen for the close-up acts. As far as I could tell this was legitimate, they weren’t displaying doctored footage.

The show begins with the bar transforming into part of the stage. David acts as a host, introducing the other illusionists and performing his own tricks while set pieces were being rolled out behind the curtain. He’s more of a comedian than a magician though, he claimed he learned all his tricks from magic books he checked out at the library. What he does have going for him is the ability to work the crowd, and in his final performance of the evening he invited a few kids up on stage, all of whom seemed genuinely fooled or at least very confused.

Hyun Joon Kim does card tricks that seem impossible like cards suddenly changing colors and pulling cards seemingly out of thin air. If you’ve ever watched Penn & Teller’s Fool Us, you’ve certainly seen other magicians do similar card tricks. Might not fool Penn & Teller, but it definitely looks magical to those of us who don’t know the secrets.

Chris’s mentalist routines were okay, but like most of these types of magic tricks he obviously had an assistant feeding him information and Googled a few members of the audience to “read” their minds. Although I don’t think he really fooled anyone, what Chris does have going for him is an energetic stage presence and a self-deprecating sense of humor.

Krendl’s escapist routine culminated in a Houdini-style escape from a locked tank of water while handcuffed — and holding his breath the entire time. This was easily the most impressive act, though I think it would have benefited from a slower pace to establish the stakes such as what’s really required of him to escape.

One trick involved an “impossible box” illusion where one of the two beautiful female assistants was locked in a box, an enormous rectangular rod was slid through the center of the box, and then… well I don’t want to spoil this one, but it’s obvious the box is much roomier than it appears.

It’s worth acknowledging the elephant in the room: all the illusionists at this show are male, and the two assistants are female. Seems like they could have at least found one female illusionists to balance this out a little better, though David deserves credit for making jokes at the expense of the gender imbalance.

My recommendation: Chances are you’ve seen many of the routines performed during this show before, if not some of the performers themselves. That said it’s one thing to see these illusions on TV and another to see them live; for that reason alone it’s worth considering. On the other hand it’s pretty expensive for a 90 minute show, and you’ll pay extra for the good seats. I think almost anyone would be entertained though the ideal audience is those who haven’t seen big scale live magic shows before and don’t mind the steep ticket price.