Review: Illusionarium will make your skepticism disappear

The physically-distanced magic show entertains with history and lots of head-scratching tricks

JAMIE ALLAN’S ILLUSIONARIUM (Lighthouse Immersive/StarVox Exhibits/Show One). At 1 Yonge (enter off Queens Quay). Now playing for a limited run, Wednesday-Sunday, various times. Packages available from $99.99 (for two). Rating: NNN

Friends and families looking for some physically-distanced entertainment will likely enjoy Jamie Allan’s Illusionarium. Although it feels at times like a quickly-put-together museum of magic, it does feature some mind-boggling tricks that will leave you speculating with friends afterwards about how they’re done.

Performed several times a day in a section of the Toronto Star building at the foot of Yonge, Illusionarium feels like a hybrid museum display and magic show. A masked guide takes you through a maze-like series of rooms in which you sit in distanced bubbles to watch the action, which explores, in chronological order, the history of magic and the various types of illusions. (I didn’t realize until watching this show that there are merely five basic types of tricks.)

The demonstrations range from classic tricks involving things disappearing (and reappearing elsewhere) to illusions that take incredible endurance and skill. In between rooms you walk through dimly-lit hallways covered with magician posters, the kind familiar to anyone who saw the AGO’s recent exhibition.

Highlights include a jaw-dropping recreation of one of Houdini’s most famous acts, performed in a creepy, atmospheric room that looks like it could have been in one of the Saw movies. And in a studio devoted to magic in the age of television, famous duo Penn and Teller – appearing on video screens – take you through a trick involving a group of cards you’re given upon entry. This will evoke one of those “How did they do that?” responses.

Unfortunately, Illusionarium begins and ends with underwhelming segments. A 3D-like hologram of Houdini (or rather, an actor playing Houdini) seems to have no point except to impart information. And at the end, UK magician Allan appears via video to introduce the final illusion, which is so awkwardly set up that few people applauded at the reveal.

The fact that all the live performers wear masks takes away from some of the effects – and sound. And speaking of sound, it’s often hard to concentrate when you can hear bits of what’s going on in adjoining rooms.

Note: if you spring for the VIP tickets, you’ll be treated to a special intimate performance by a live, masked magician. At the show I attended, the genial Ken Margoe executed some impressive rope and card tricks, eliciting some of the biggest oohs and ahhs of the hour-long show.

Listen a conversation with Illusionarium producers Svetlana Dvoretsky and Corey Ross of Lighthouse Immersive on our NOW What podcast, available on Apple Podcasts or Spotify or playable directly below:


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One response to “Review: Illusionarium will make your skepticism disappear”

  1. The very fact that there are no ratings allowed on Google for this abomination should tell you everything you need to know about this high-school-level performance. For the $200 we spent, we did not expect to watch videos with a few magic tricks tossed in, sit on cheap fold-out chairs and stand up for part of it. It was a well-marketed money grab. But nice to see that Now was either paid to write this or its author has no experience seeing a good live performance. Credibility – gone!

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