Being a little bit of a cynic, I went to the media call for the new revue at the Marina Bay Sands, The Illusionists, rather disinterested. After all, I prefer David Blaine over David Copperfield, and sawing a pretty young woman’s body in half or walking through the Great Wall of China weren’t feats which had impressed me.

Of course, the people behind the show, namely creator Simon Painter and Illusion Director Brett Daniels, who’s also the Grand Illusionist in charge of large scale tricks, had other plans.

The Illusionists show at Marina Bay Sands the performers
The Illusionists: James Dimmare, Dan Sperry, Brett Daniels, Phillip Escoffey and Michael Halvarson (from left to right) will be performing at Marina Bay Sands

They gave us a short preview of what to expect. The most memorable part wasn’t a glitzy number with all the works.

It was Dan Sperry, who dubs himself the Anti-Conjuror, with his goth/punk getup. He swallows a huge breath mint, then uses a long piece of floss to saw through his neck to retrieve said breath mint. I was sitting in the second row, and even I couldn’t tell how he did it.

The Illusionists show at Marina Bay Sands Dan Sperry Lifesaver Act
The Illusionists show at Marina Bay Sands Andrew Basso Water Cell act
Two amazing acts at The Illusionists: Anti-Conjuror, Dan Sperry (above top) and Escapologist, Andrew Basso performing at The Illusionists media call in Singapore

The second highlight was the Escapologist, Andrew Basso, with good looks and a mohawk to boot, freeing himself from hand and leg cuffs while suspended in a transparent cubicle of water.

A cameraman got up close, beaming the image onto a wide screen, as we watched him struggle to find the hairpin to unlock the handcuffs which had dropped onto the cubicle floor. Finally, after about four minutes, he emerges. It’s some nail-biting stuff. The cuffs are real by the way ‒ Basso was stopped and questioned by policemen as he entered Changi Airport.

The point: Making large things appear out of nowhere isn’t the whole point of The Illusionists (although there is some of that), but showing off the variety which magic has to offer, and creating the same amazement and excitement we had as children watching magicians. Just like the way I felt when I watched Blaine’s television specials and realised magic could still be cool after all.

Another of the show’s aims is elevating magic to an art form, as Daniels puts it. “Magic has to be executed with all these different elements. It really is an art form like music, dance and theatre.”

And make no mistake, these illusionists actually do put their lives on the line for this art form. “I’ve cut my mouth in my act with razor blades. In another one, I used a meat grinder. One time, the new guy who was operating it got the cue wrong and I almost came into contact with the spinning device, so I threw him in there instead,” jokes Sperry, who’s obviously in charge of the more gruesome stuff.

There’s more danger planned in the future, too. Basso, who took eight years to perfect his water cell escape act, is considering suspending the tank with a rope which will burn as he tries to escape. Since Singapore’s the first country for their world tour, audiences at later stops just might get to see this.

The other acts, though less dangerous, promise a mind-boggling time. The Gentleman, James Dimmare, also nicknamed the Dove Whisperer for his work with birds and Swede Michael Halvarson, the Trickster, who pickpockets unsuspecting audience members.

The very eloquent and witty mind-reading Philip Escoffey, or the Mentalist rounds up the cast. Two intriguing highlights of his act ‒ recreating the experiments the Soviet Union and United States performed on people who claimed they had paranormal gifts and giving someone a tarot reading “but not like you’ve seen before”.

Just two tips when you attend the show: Try not to look away or you might kick yourself for missing out on something cool (yes, this happened to me). And don’t leave any uneaten food in your pockets ‒ Halvarson recalls a hotdog as the nastiest thing he’s ever pickpocketed off someone.

The Illusionists is on from now to Mar 4, 2012 at the Sands Theater, Marina Bay Sands. Tickets are priced from $45 to $175. Log on to for  more details.

Vanessa is a freelance writer and can be found at