When Dan Sperry did a magic act on “America’s Got Talent,” there were no top hats or playing cards in sight. Instead, in one of the most re-watched segments of the reality competition, Sperry chewed up a Lifesaver, appeared to thread floss back and forth through the skin of his throat, and then pulled out the floss with an intact Lifesaver hanging on it — before tossing it to show judge/noted germophobe Howie Mandel.
It wasn’t for the faint of heart.
Sperry is billed as the Anti-Conjurer in the internationally touring show “The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible,” coming to the Academy of Music tomorrow through March 1 after a Broadway run.
“When I was opening for bands at colleges [and] DJs at nightclubs, I didn’t want to say that it was magic show, that I was a magician — that’s off-putting. No one would come,” Sperry the Anti-Conjurer says. “I wanted a name that sort of made sense, but in a hidden way.”
As a kid, Sperry was into what he calls “make believe stuff” — if you can call sticking a needle through your arm, making it bleed, and then “restoring the flesh back to a solid piece of skin” in your fifth grade classroom an act of make believe.
His act is still dark, creepy, “shock illusions,” which has earned him the description Marilyn Manson meets David Copperfield.
But it’s not all for the shock value, Sperry stresses. “I want to give the viewer a feeling of wonder and amazement— not just do a cheap gimmick to get a reaction,” he says. “But it’s a lot more fun: Instead of just saying ‘pick a card from this deck,’ you do it in a weird, bizarre way. It’s like Hitchcock. He didn’t want to just make thrillers — he put in twists.”
Sperry's brand of magic is only one type you’ll see at “The Illusionists.” The show also features Yu Ho-Jin the Manipulator, Jeff Hobson the Trickster, Andrew Basso the Escapologist, Kevin James the Inventor, and Aaron Crow the Warrior.
The seven collaborate with each other on stage, weaving into and out of acts, backed by a live band, along with special effects, pyrotechnics, fog, lights and lasers. And of course, there’s audience participation — for the brave.
"The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible" is at the Academy of MusicFeb. 24 to March 1. Tickets are at www.kimmelcenter.org.