On Stage: The Illusionists at Kimmel

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

The Illusionists – Live From Broadway

It’s no illusion — “The Illusionists – Live From Broadway,” which is playing Philadelphia this weekend, is the world’s best-selling magic show.

Kimmel Center Presents is bringing the internationally-acclaimed production to the Merriam Theater (250 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, www.kimmelcenter.org) on May 10 and 11.

There are some good shows featuring magic acts but it’s safe to say that they all pale in comparison to “The Illusionists – Live From Broadway.”

The highly entertaining show is produced by Simon Painter, Tim Lawson and MagicSpace Entertainment. Conceived by Simon Painter, the show’s creative team also includes executive producer Tim Lawson, director Neil Dorward and creative director Jim Millan.

Full of hilarious magic tricks, death-defying stunts and acts of breathtaking wonder, “The Illusionists” has shattered box office records worldwide and thrilled audiences of all ages with a mind-blowing spectacular showcasing the jaw-dropping talents of six of the most incredible illusionists on earth.

The roster of magic stars includes Sabine (The Sorceress), Raymond Crowe (The Unusualist), Colin Cloud (The Deductionist), Paul Debak (Trickster), An Ha Lim (The Manipulator), and Jonathan Goodwin (The Daredevil).

Sabine has been working in magic for more than a decade. During this time, she worked with master magician Hans Klok and won the prestigious Silver Clown at the Circus Festival in Monte Carlo. Sabine has been described as “one of the most extraordinary and talented performers in magic” with her amazing performances, escapes, illusions and mind games.

Crowe is a world-class magician, physical comedian, trained mime, ventriloquist, inventor and master of intricate shadow puppetry. In the magic world, his unusual and highly creative acts are greatly admired and have won numerous international awards. Cloud is one of the greatest thought readers of all time is a psychic savant known as a real-life Sherlock Holmes.

Debak is one of the U.K.’s top entertainers. He has performed in six continents, on the stages of London’s West End, and headlined his own show in Las Vegas. An accomplished magician, comedian and actor, Debak’s skills have won him critical acclaim. Both the Magic Circle and the International Brotherhood of Magicians have recognized his talent — naming him Young Magician of the Year and awarding him the British Shield.

An Ha Lim was the first-place winner at Korea’s Busan International Magic Competition, Italy Club Convention Manipulation and World Magic Seminar in Asia. An Ha Lim was also a Golden Lion Award winner at the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas. Goodwin is widely considered one of the most creative, skilled, and frankly crazy stunt performers in the world. He is an accomplished knife thrower, archer, escape artist, fakir, martial artist, free diver, and free climber.

Sabine, a Dutch performer whose full name is Sabine Van Diemen, is the first female magician on the tour.

“This particular cast started in mid-February,” said Sabine, during a recent phone interview as the tour traveled from Melbourne, Florida to Greenville, South Carolina. “I also did the ‘Illusionists’ tour last year.

“In 2016, I was working in another magic show in London’s West End. I saw ‘Illusionists’ and thought it was great. Now, I’m a part of the show.”

Sabine, whose act includes illusions, escapes and a bullwhip trick, was born in the Netherlands — in Amsterdam. She started in show business as a dancer for The Holland Show Ballet when she was 18 years old. That show led her into the world of magic.

“There was a magician in the HSB show,” said Sabine. “His assistant got hurt on opening night. He asked me if I wanted to try it and I said yeah. There were three acts that I had to learn in an hour. My first illusion was a fire cage. The magician puts fire in it, and I appear. I immediately loved it.”

Eight years ago, Sabine met Hans Klok, one of Holland’s most famous entertainers.

“I worked with Hans Klok for a couple years,” said Sabine. “He is the most famous magician in Europe.”

Sabine and Klok toured the world for five years and won the Silver Clown at the Circus Festival in Monte Carlo.

“After five years, I got tired of touring,” said Sabine, who was also a top-flight model in Europe. “So, I stopped. After that, I started working solo in the West End magic show ‘Impossible.’”

“I’m finished with modeling, but dancing will always be a part of me – always a part of my act,” said Sabine. “On this tour, I try to switch acts in and out. It’s hard on the road crew but I do like to alternate illusions.

“Right now, I do four acts – all in a block. I love it. It’s bang-bang-bang-bang. I’m also in a grand illusion at the end. ‘The Illusionists’ gave me the nickname, ‘The Sorceress.’ I think it’s cool. It really sounds like a power chick.”

Video link for The Illusionists — https://youtu.be/kkemtVqwxKk.

Shows at the Merriam Theater are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on May 10 and 11 a.m. and 3 and 8 p.m. on May 11. Ticket prices range from $47-$107.

John Paul White

Usually, survivors of wars are happy to stay close to home after their tours are done. Musicians who have spent years on the road plying their trade also welcome a break in the seemingly endless chore of touring to support their records.

So, it’s hardly a surprise that John Paul White got off the road and maintained a low profile after years of touring in the music act The Civil Wars. Any desires or intentions to make live music were not in White’s playbook.

The Civil Wars — his Grammy-winning duo with Joy Williams — finished touring in 2012. White had several kids at home, and he wanted to be around a lot more while they were growing up at his home in Alabama.

“It was at least a year-and-a-half until the urge to play came back to the surface,” said White, during a phone interview Tuesday morning from a tour stop in Richmond, Virginia.

“For a long time, I didn’t even want to walk across the street and play a song. I wanted a normal life. After 15 years straight of making music and touring a lot, it was a novel situation to listen to my kids telling me about their day at school.

“Musically, I wasn’t doing shit. It really did take a while until it got to the surface.”

In 2016, White came back with his second solo album — “Beulah” – on Single Lock Records. Last month, White released his new album, “The Hurting Kind” – also on Single Lock Records.

Now, White is on the road again – touring in support of his new LP. The tour brings him to the area on May 10 for a show at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com).

“I’m on the road again – I didn’t say I wouldn’t,” said White. “But I didn’t see it – especially with time at home and being co-dependent with my family. It took me being out of it for a time to realize how much I love playing for people.”

Leading up to the sessions for “The Hurting Kind,” White was inspired by artists like Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, Roy Orbison, Chet Atkins and Bill Porter. Drawing on these timeless influences, White sought out classic writers like Whisperin’ Bill Anderson and Bobby Braddock to collaborate with.

“The Hurting Kind” was recorded at Sun Drop Sound, White’s new home studio that he converted from an old, turn-of-the-century home in the historic district of Florence, Alabama, and at legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

The record was co-produced with Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes) and features additional contributions from a core group of musicians including Jon Radford (Leigh Nash, Odessa) and Reed Watson on drums, Pat Bergeson (Chet Atkins, Emmylou Harris) on electric guitar, Jon Estes (Robyn Hitchcock, Kesha) and David Hood (Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section) on bass and Lillie Mae (Jack White) on fiddle, plus guest vocals from Lee Ann Womack and background vocals from Erin Rae and The Secret Sisters.

“It’s been almost a year since we finished,” said White. “Ben co-produced it and we had some great players like Pat Bergeson. This time, I was a little more purposeful with the songs. That’s why I worked on songs with Bill Anderson and Bobby Braddock.

“I wrote two songs with Bill Anderson – ‘I Wish I Could Write You a Song’ and “You Lost Me.’  — and one with Bobby Braddock – ‘This Isn’t Gonna End Well.’ I wanted the songs to be more complex with more arranging.”

With “The Hurting Kind,” White draws on the lush, orchestrated music made in Nashville in the early 1960s — writing about overwhelming love, unraveling relationships and the fading memory of a loved one.

According to White, “I approached this album differently on the songwriting side before I ever got into the studio. I really wanted there to be a torch song quality to it, the classic timeless quality. To not be afraid of the big note, and not be afraid of the drama.”

White was also careful with the direction the album was heading.

“I didn’t want to make a retro record,” said White. “I used the sensibilities. I wanted it to be more grown-up. I wanted it to be slick. It was recorded live and we did 13 tracks in four days.”

Video link for John Paul White — https://youtu.be/NbchU2Hk4LQ.

The show at Ardmore Music Hall, which has Erin Rae as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18.

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