Piccolo got its first taste of the mystery of magic Saturday with the debut of the singing illusionist, Russell Anderson. Guests were treated to all the expected tricks — bunnies in top hats, disappearing women, levitations, and rope tricks, while concurrently listening to Anderson's musical stylings.
Opening in full song, Anderson started in on the basics, making a lovely assistant appear in a seemingly empty glass box, after it was covered in a sparkling blanket of course. On the same front, Anderson made a bowling ball appear to leap from a large note pad after sketching one into the pages. Then there were the miraculously expanding and shrinking ropes. What looked like ordinary ropes of three lengths were equalized, cut, lengthened, and reattached by Anderson's bare hands.
Following the intermission, Anderson completed two of the oldest tricks associated with modern magicians. Out of thin air, Anderson and his beautiful assistant Morgan Fanning, with the help of the eager audience, made an adorable white rabbit appear in an empty cage. Who, Anderson's son's pet bunny, then vanished from the stage as quickly as he appeared from yet another empty box. Anderson claimed he is frequently bombarded with questions regarding the whereabouts of the rabbit. As a result, he attempted to teach the audience a few pointers about the trick. In slow-motion replay, the cast reenacted the scene, as a black draped figure stealthily put a fake bunny in the cage, then pulled it out of the box.
Anderson is as humorous as he is sleight of hand. Random side notes and jokes kept the show flowing, as the tricks were few and far between. Vocals took a significant amount of time, and although Anderson's voice lends itself to show tunes and the stage, the entirety of the show dragged. A rendition of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," was painful in the last set, and would have left an incredibly sour taste save for the final song, Rascal Flatt's "God Bless the Broken Road." Country is much more suited for his voice, as opposed to '90s chick ballads.
Overall, the tricks were highly anticipated but often lackluster, although I still don't know where that bunny went or why his assistant had no stab wounds. The audio had several major problems, causing Anderson to direct what track needed to be played from stage and kill time while the correct number was finally chosen.
Anderson also used his trump card a little too early. Pulling his adorable young son Aidan onto the stage decked in a blazer and tie, he melted the hearts of the audience largely composed of families. The last-minute mini sermon about Jesus was additionally unnecessary, as guests came for the promised "Las Vegas style" magic, not a call to God.
Piccolo Spoleto. Anderson Illusions: A World Beyond Reality. $16 / $11 children/student/senior. June 6, 12, 2 p.m. Footlight Players Theatre, 20 Queen St. (843) 724-7295