The OI Review: Michael Carbonaro Live!

Review by Jason Wert

One of the advantage of not having cable television is that you don’t get to know all the cable stars who are out there…and thus when one comes to town your initial reaction is “who?”

That’s the case for me and magician/prankster/entertainer Michael Carbonaro. Known to millions through his television show The Carbonaro Effect on TruTV, he has been taking a live show around the country aimed at family audience.

So in a world where it’s difficult for a magician to really do something different and entertain a crowd used to 60 second video clips on YouTube straining the limits of their attention span, would Carbonaro have something to catch the eye?

The short answer is yes.

It’s a bit of irony that Carbonaro’s show took place at the Gillioz Theater in downtown Springfield, a classic theatre that reminds of you the days when vaudeville ruled entertainment, because a lot of Carbonaro’s show has that vaudeville magician feel to it.

(Now, at this point, I’ll ask an indulgence of you: given this is a magic show, I don’t want to reveal the tricks performed during the show so as not to ruin future shows for someone who may find this review while searching for a performance in their community. So, the term “no spoilers” will apply to this review.)

The opening illusion/bit really sets the tone for the rest of the night with Carbonaro. He comes into the room in a manner that’s what you might expect from someone who is known for practical jokes.

Not only is the opening bit entertaining, it’s showing “magic” without bells and whistles and light shows: it also sets the tone for almost all of Carbonaro’s performance.

The show is extremely family-friendly; not a single illusion even walked to the edge of being something that would make a parent cringe in their seats.

The show also doesn’t really break any new ground in terms of truly groundbreaking illusions; you won’t see Carbonaro doing any trick you haven’t see in some version in the past. That fact highlights something about the show that again hearkens back to the day of vaudeville.

Michael Carbonaro is a true showman.

The mark of a good showman is someone who can captivate an audience and despite showing you things that you may have seen time and again, even with subtle twists that make it “different”, you still are riveted to what’s happening on the stage. P.T. Barnum would have been proud of the way Carbonaro controlled the stage and the perceptions of the audience.

Carbonaro showed mastery of the design of his show, which includes a video screen to allow those far from the stage to see the more intricate tricks. He displays body mastery, in that a shoulder shrug, or sideways glance, or look of befuddled amusement can swing the audience; it’s that ability to keep the audience’s rapt attention that allows Carbonaro to completely entertain an audience without anything you would call truly groundbreaking in terms of illusion or trick.

The only time I felt a little weird about the performance was a skit at the end of the show; not that it was inappropriate in any manner, I just would not under any circumstances want to be in Carbonaro’s place in that bit!

So is Michael Carbonaro Live! the best magic show I’ve seen in recent years? If I’m being completely honest with you, I’d have to say no; the show put on by the magician Reza I still feel was a better overall night at the theatre.

Does that mean Michael Carbonaro’s show isn’t worth the time and cost? Absolutely not! The more I thought about Carbonaro’s show, the more I equate the show to a classic movie you’ve seen often like The Godfather or Star Wars or Blade Runner. You know what you’re going to see, and you won’t see anything that really surprises you; but it’s so good and it’s so satisfying to your spirit that you leave with a wonderful feeling that you’ve had a great night.

And on that level, my friends, showman Michael Carbonaro delivers in a huge way.

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