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‘The Illusionists’ at the Ordway; ‘Cold Snap Blues’ at Icebox Gallery

ALSO: Sing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” with the Minnesota Chorale; Delfeayo Marsalis and Davell Crawford at the Dakota; and more.

The cast of “The Illusionists”
Photo by Joan Marcus

Entering the Ordway for “The Illusionists — Witness the Impossible,” you know you’re about to be bamboozled. Five minutes into the performance, you don’t care. A touring magic show on a grand scale, “The Illusionists” is so entertaining that the smart thing to do is suspend disbelief and go with the flow. Even if you watch much of it through binoculars, thinking you might catch a card peeking out of a sleeve end, forget it. These people are pros.

A fast-moving mix of tricks, music, lights, dancing, haze, noise, pyrotechnics and comedy, “The Illusionists” stars seven master magicians — including one who spends more than three minutes upside-down in a tank full of water, unlocking handcuffs with a hairpin. Andrew Basso, the Escapologist, idolized Houdini as a child and never grew out of his baffling desire to risk his life in front of a crowd. 

As the goth Anti-Conjuror, part Marilyn Manson and part Beetlejuice, Dan Sperry gets a lot of stage time, perhaps because he’s from Minnesota. Jeff Hobson, the Trickster, also serves as one of the two emcees; much of his humor is for grown-ups, but without crossing the line into too crude for kids. The other emcee, Adam Trent, is the Futurist; his main sketch is the most high-tech. Both Trent and Hobson are quick-witted, with improv skills. At Wednesday’s show, Trent persuaded a 6-year-old to lie about his age and talked his parents out of $10.

As the Warrior, Belgium’s Aaron Crow had one sketch on Wednesday, but it involved a crossbow, an apple, and a couple pulled from the crowd. (The show uses a lot of audience volunteers, all drawn from the main floor, and now you’ve been warned.) Kevin James, the Inventor, is known for creating celebrated illusions; his bits are the most jaw-dropping. And the Manipulator, South Korea’s Yu Ho-Jin, turns sleight-of-hand into a sensuous, elegant ballet.

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Much of the fun is in the surprise, so we won’t give more away. But “The Illusionists” lives up to its considerable hype. Through March 29. FMI and tickets ($33-$115). Best availability: tonight (Thursday, March 26) or Sunday night. 


The Chopin Society, a local treasure since 1984, has announced its 2015-16 series of solo piano recitals by internationally established artists, all taking place on Steinways at Macalester’s Mairs Concert Hall. After a preseason all-Chopin recital Sept. 20 by Eric Lu, who recently won first prize at the 9th Annual U.S. National Chopin Competition in Miami and will represent the U.S. at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, the season begins Oct. 18 with 25-year-old French pianist Lise de la Salle. On Nov. 15, Alexander Gavrylyuk – born in the Ukraine, a naturalized citizen of Australia now based in Berlin – will perform. Gavrylyuk won the 1999 Vladimir Horowitz Competition and the 2005 Arthur Rubinstein Piano Masters Competition.

The season continues Feb. 7, 2016, with Hungarian pianist Dénes Várjon, March 6 with Scottish pianist and two-time Gramophone award winner Steven Osborne (in his third appearance with the Chopin Society), and May 8 with Israeli pianist Roman Rabinovich, winner of the 2008 Arthur Rubinstein Competition. BTW, the Chopin Society features music by many composers, not just Chopin, although many artists include his work in their recitals. Check the website in May for information on ordering season tickets and single tickets, or call 612-822-0123.

Italian Canadian choreographer and dancer Gioconda Barbuto has been chosen as the 2015 McKnight International Artist, Northrop and the McKnight Artist Fellowships Program announced Wednesday. Barbuto will spend two weeks in the Twin Cities in October, creating new work for TU Dance. She will return in November for final rehearsals and the premiere with TU at the O’Shaughnessy on Nov. 20-22. Toronto-born Barbuto danced with the Minnesota Dance Theatre, then spent 16 years with Les Grand Ballets Canadiens de Montreal and eight years with Nederlands Dans Theater III. She has done extensive independent performing and choreography and is known as a dancer of wit, intelligence, exuberance and theatricality.

Is all of the world’s great art slowly making its way to Minnesota, like iron filings to a magnet? The Walker recently received a Robert Indiana “Love” sculpture and more than 100 other works donated or pledged for its 75th year. The MIA is getting a boatload of Japanese art and maybe a big Myron Kunin collection of American modernist paintings (the Kunins are currently on long-term loan). And now this: the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona has “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” Not the giant (12′ x 21′) version of Emanuel Letze’s famous 1851 painting; that’s the most-visited work of art at New York’s Metropolitan Museum. MMAM’s is a smaller (3′ x 6′) composition study, finished the same year. Otherwise, they’re identical, both superstars.

Before crossing the Mississippi, the painting spent 35 years at the White House, on loan from a private collector. It was purchased by MMAM funders Mary Burrichter and her husband, Bob Kierlin, for an undisclosed sum. It’s on loan to MMAM but will one day join the permanent collection. This has been all over the news (including MinnPost), but we couldn’t resist chiming in.

The Minnesota Opera’s current season ends with the audience favorite “Carmen,” an opera with everything: sex, violence, romance, toreadors and terrific music. It opens April 25 and closes May 10 after nine performances. Want to know more about Bizet’s super-popular opera? The U of M’s LearningLife continuing ed program is giving a short class called “Endless Encore: The Mystique of Bizet’s ‘Carmen.’” Great! But wait. The first session is April 29, the second May 13. The course description says it’s being offered “in cooperation with the Minnesota Opera’s spring production.” Then why isn’t it offered earlier, before the opera starts?

The picks

Tonight (Thursday, March 26) at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church: Sing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” with the Minnesota Chorale. The chorale’s artistic director, Kathy Saltzmann, will begin by reviewing the history of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and why it’s so important. Music provided, or bring your own. Doors at 6:30 p.m., event at 7. Free.

Tonight at the Dakota: The Last Southern Gentlemen Tour featuring Delfeayo Marsalis and Davell Crawford. A few words of explanation: “The Last Southern Gentlemen” is the satisfying new album by trombonist Delfeayo and his father, pianist Ellis, scion of the Marsalis clan. Both were originally scheduled to play last night and tonight at the Dakota. Turns out Ellis couldn’t play tonight, so New Orleans pianist Davell Crawford is stepping in. Davell isn’t Ellis, but then Ellis isn’t Davell. Both are worth seeing, so don’t be upset if you missed Ellis. 7 and 9 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30-$50).

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The weekend

Starts Friday at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre: “It Follows.” Part of the Film Society’s “Dark Out” series of scary movies, David Robert Mitchell’s jump-out-of-your-seat, R-rated film was a hit at Cannes in 2014. Showtimes TBA. FMI, trailer and tickets ($8.50). The trailer is plenty for us, thanks very much. Through April 2.

Saturday at Icebox Gallery: “Cold Snap Blues.” Thirty-three portraits of blues artists B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim, Koko Taylor and more by photographer Marc Norberg, featured in his 1995 book “Black & White Blues.” Based in St. Paul, Norberg was recently inducted into the Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame. Free. Closes April 25. Also Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Saturday at the Minnesota Museum of American Art Project Space: Unveiling party for “Random Walks and Chance Encounters.” Minneapolis-based artist Harriet Bart and Boston-based artist Yu-Wen Wu have been in residence at the Project Space since March 5, creating a site-specific multimedia installation. See what they’ve been up to (and admire the Project Space’s new floors). A short conversation featuring the artists will be followed by a music presentation in cooperation with fellow St. Paul resident McNally Smith College of Music. 6-8 p.m. Free. The installation will remain on view through April 12.

Sunday at Roseville Lutheran Church: Beethoven’s Fifth! William Schrickel leads the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra in Barber’s First Essay for Orchestra, the world premiere of violist Daniel Erdmann’s Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (with Erdmann on viola), and Beethoven’s mighty symphony. 4 p.m. Free; donations requested.