For nearly two hours, Michelangelo (neé Michael Christensen) served as ringmaster for an evening variety show that included a trio of dancers performing between tricks. And Michelangelo himself provided a slick mix of big illusions—ladies chopped in thirds, disappearing and reappearing assistants—and close-up card and rope tricks involving audience members.
The tricks themselves were largely variations on familiar standards—yet perhaps because the art form has lost some of its cachet in recent years, they felt fresh. Like all the best magicians, Michelangelo sold his illusions not just with technical knowledge but with theatrical showmanship. Lighting, music and costume changes may not contribute anything to the nuts-and-bolts of a trick, but it’s a knack for playing to the crowd that allows an illusionist to get you looking where he wants you to look—which can be particularly important when uncooperative gusts of wind at an outdoor venue threaten to lift up the curtains hiding the secrets.
If anything, Michelangelo’s Illusionicity was too short: A 100 minute performance included a 15-minute intermission, and really only a dozen set-piece illusions between dance routines. But quality can trump quantity—and the goofy grins that come from being artfully bamboozled can trump everything.