The Unbelievables

The Unbelievables
The Works Entertainment. Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, Dec 19 – 29, 2017; Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne, Jan 3 – 13, 2018; Crown Theatre, Perth, Jan 18 – 28, 2018.

Glitz, glam and lots of lights and decibels herald this new show from the producers that took ‘The Illusionists’ and ‘The Golden Age of Circus’ from their Sydney premieres to the international touring circuit. In this production, they expand from a single theme to bring together performers from different “genres and skillsets” in a show that combines circus, magic, dance and music – and a little bit of Las Vegas-style hype.

New York comedian/magician Harrison Greenbaum powers the show into the Concert Hall with drums drumming, guitars strumming, a kaleidoscope of lights – and the constant, loud, fast American ‘stand up’ patter that is inevitably effective but often hard to understand.

Nevertheless, he gets the audience in with some local jokes and a few tricks, then introduces a variety of acts in a show that is smoothly professional. From fast-change artists Sos and Victoria to Artem Lyubanevych (The Titan) who glides high above the stage on a flying swing pole, the production is carefully paced to keep the audience watching and wondering. If the stage needs to be cleared and re-set, it is done quickly and efficiently, while six ballroom dancers swirl or Greenbaum resumes his “lightning-fast wit”.

Acts that would not normally ‘work’ in such a large venue are brought to the audience via cameras and the large screen. Julia Kurkina’s sand art for example and the dexterity of sleight of hand magician Shi Lim are much more effective when seen ‘up close’! So too is the work of ventriloquist Jay Johnson – the close-up camera showing clearly why he is regarded as “a master of vocal illusion”.

Sword swallower Brett Loudermilk and knife thrower Alfredo Silva spark up the danger level of the production, while speed juggler Roberto Carlos wows the audience with flying skittles and popping ping pong balls.

Perhaps one of the highlights of the evening is the work of hand balancers, Alan Pagnota and Rafael Ferreira. Ferreira, who was born with congenital arthrogryposis, is wheelchair-bound, but has developed the upper body strength that enables him to be part of this “time-honoured circus act” that demands superb muscle control.

The Unbelievables has universal appeal, especially at this time of the year when families are looking for some fun. It’s got thrills and skills. It’s exciting and entertaining. And what better place than the Opera House to see so many different acts from around the world!

Carol Wimmer

Photographer: Jacquie Manning.

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