When asked for more details about a Broadway run a representative for the show would only say "plans are still in formation and will be confirmed in a couple of weeks." The production has performances scheduled for Akron, Ohio in November and then a broader United States tour from January at least into June of 2015. Since some of the tour venues are promoting their booking of the show as a post-Broadway appearance and so far dates have not been announced for the end of November and December, one guess is that the production will appear in New York during the holiday season as a limited-run offering.
Simon Painter, a producer who was instrumental in creating The Illusionists has been quoted as saying "we wanted to do what Cirque du Soleil did to circus to magic." "It's old-school magic meets contemporary wonderment, with grand illusion, jaw-dropping levitation, mind reading and death-defying escapology," wrote a reviewer in Melbourne's The Age. "Add the dancers, a glitzy set, a live band, endless audience engagement, plus a touch of cheesy humour and you have a show that's nothing if not an entertaining night out."
Considering that New York is an international center of live entertainment and tourism it is striking how rarely major magic shows are featured on it stages. The longest-running magic-related production on Broadway was The Magic Show, a musical which featured Doug Henning and ran from 1974 to 1978. Henning returned to Broadway with an ambitious but less successful endeavor, Merlin, in 1983, and then again for a brief run in Doug Henning's World of Magic in late 1984 into 1985. Harry Blackstone Jr. brought his show to Broadway for three months in 1980 and there was the Copperfield run in 1996 but nothing since in terms of productions primarily focused on magic.
This past season did offer Helder Guimarães and Derek Delgaudio's Off-Broadway show Nothing to Hide, which drew rave reviews during its run last fall and winter. Asi Wind's Concert of the Mind ran for three weeks downtown at Axis Theater in October which also featured one-night performances by other notable magicians. Steve Cohen's Chamber Magic has been an ongoing success at the Waldorf Astoria, Monday Night Magic offers a diverse selection of performers each week, and Sam Eaton's mentalism show is presented on Saturdays in the East Village. Along with some one-off presentations here and there it seems like pretty slim fare for a city of some 8.5 million residents and more than 50 million annual visitors, especially in comparison to such other tourist destinations as Las Vegas and even Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Plus, none of the more recent shows offered a large-scale experience like The Illusionists. It raises questions about whether there is enough of an audience to support shows of this nature in New York.
Theatrical producer Ethan Silverman thinks that the challenges of succeeding in a New York production will be formidable for The Illusionists. "I think the reason that shows like The Illusionists or Masters of Illusion (which played the New Jersey Performing Arts Center) play a limited run or one and done, is because they have a short shelf life in the Metro area. The audience is only so wide and the numerics only slightly viable. If bringing a big magic name or show to Broadway was financially feasible, the many smart producers around would have done it already." Silverman was one of the producers of Play Dead the off-Broadway magic and spook show created by Todd Robbins and Teller. He also produced Magic in the Park at Joe's Pub, a show that honored Abe Hurwitz who inspired generations of New York's young magicians through a long-running program in the parks.
Speaking to the relative absence of big magic shows in New York since the run of the The Magic Show Silverman says "I think it's not for lack of interest. I think it’s because there’s not enough talent, personally. There’s not enough up-and-comers of the Copperfield, Penn and Teller, Lance Burton level. There’s a lot of good middle-of-the-ground talent but not the stage presence talent. I’m not sure if The Illusionists guys are it."
While the exact form of its Broadway run and its drawing power remain to be seen, part of the intention of a Broadway run for The Illusionists is surely to burnish its visibility prior to its widespread U. S. tour. One way or the other the presence of The Illusionists on Broadway will provide audiences in New York the rare opportunity to experience a large-scale live magic show, and audience response should provide an indication of how such entertainment appeals in today's local market.