What do you get when you put an escape artist, mind reader, weapon master and magician together? Just one of Forbes’ top five most successful magic shows from around the globe. “The Illusionists – Live from Broadway” is making a six-day stop at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre before vanishing into thin air (or traveling down south to Dallas).
“The Illusionists” brings together eight of the world’s top magicians, each with their own area of specialty. The Phoenix spoke with Colin Cloud, known as The Deductionist in the show, ahead of their Chicago tour stop. The forensic mind reader, now a world-renowned leader in the magic industry, was first inspired to get into the field by the fictional character Sherlock Holmes.
“I absolutely thought [Sherlock Holmes] was a real person when I was eight, and then when I was 10 I discovered he never actually existed. I was devastated as you can imagine,” Cloud said with a laugh. “But by then, I loved the idea of being able to look at someone and just deduce everything about them.”
Cloud grew up in Scotland and this intrigue led Cloud to leave high school at 15 in order to study forensic investigation at Glasgow Caledonian University. While there, he specialized in profiling and eventually found his way into comedy. He combined these areas of interest into one show-stopping act, which has led him on a successful career of baffling (and reading) minds all over. Cloud said his comedic skills keep his stage time entertaining, but also serve as a sort of safety net should he need it.
“If I ever say something and it’s inaccurate, then I can cover it with comedy I hope,” Cloud said. “It’s kind of nerve-racking because you never know who or what’s going to be there, but that’s also what keeps it exciting and making sure it doesn’t get boring for me.”
As for his process, Cloud said he approaches each individual differently. The first thing he does is get the person onstage to relax and be comfortable so they give off what he needs. From there, Cloud might look to physical appearance or do some profiling. Other times, The Deductionist said it’s psychologically based and he makes individuals suggestible without quite hypnotizing them.
What it ultimately comes down to is understanding how someone thinks, because when that is reached, Cloud said he can then figure out what they’re thinking. Despite this scientific approach, Cloud said some audience members theorize his capabilities go beyond that.
“People will ask me how long I’ve known I’m psychic, and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m not psychic,’ and they’re like, ‘Oh, we know you’re psychic, you have to say you’re not,’” Cloud said. “Which is hilarious, because as far as I’m aware, I’m definitely not psychic.”
Cloud is joined on the road by seven other performers, each with a specialty ranging from stage illusions to escapology. Although a majority of the group has been together since “The Illusionists – Live on Broadway” opened in 2015, learning each other’s tricks has never been a priority. Rather, Cloud said the group focuses more on the performance aspect of the show as a whole.
“I think when you’re younger you want to know how it all works, whereas when you get older, you realize that it’s kind of nice to not know how stuff works,” Cloud said. “We’re with each other day in and day out, so it’s nice to talk about other things than how [the tricks are] done. I know roughly, but even if we did know, there’s no way the rest of us could replicate it because the skill that’s involved is too high.”
Cloud said the fast-paced show — which took in $11 million in 2016, broke records on Broadway and features the talents of magicians who millions have seen globally, accord- ing to Forbes — contains something for everyone of all ages.
“Audiences are going to see a wide variety of magic from the best performers in the world,” Cloud said. “Unlike going to the cinema or watching TV or even a play or musical, this is a show that’s truly immersive. The audiences are as much a part of this show as the performers are.”
“The Illusionists” is playing at the Oriental Theatre (24 W. Randolph St.) through Feb. 26. Tickets cost $16-$80 and can be purchased at Broadway in Chicago box offices, by calling 800-775- 2000 or by visiting www.BroadwayInChicago.com.