As the chancellor took the stage Sept. 22 before the Extreme Illusions and Escapes show at Givens Performing Arts Center, the audience erupted in warm applause.
“This is the second show where we’ve had over a thousand people show up,” Chancellor Cummings remarked.
No pressure for Illusionist Josh Knotts and his trusty assistant Lea.
The Suspenseful Beginning
The anticipation continued to mount, in fact it was almost tangible as the crowd prepared to imagine what would happen with the various sharp, pointy torture devices on stage.
When the lights began to fade, a hush fell upon the crowd in GPAC.
Knotts made his way to the stage ready to entertain all who gathered to watch.
Immediately, Knotts brought his best with a stellar sense of enthusiasm and charisma that easily drew participation and intrigue from the crowd.
The audience watched patiently and meticulously throughout his performance, from the simplistic act of pulling a long collection of never-ending colorful handkerchiefs out of his mouth to the show stopping final “disappearing” act, Knotts carefully crafted each trick—keeping the attention of the young and the old.
Despite a few hiccups in humor, Knotts kept the crowd in the palm of his hand, even when he sawed a kid in half (no one was harmed in the making of the production, luckily).
Additionally, the use of upbeat background music within and between acts helped ease transitions and engage the crowd, especially during the straitjacket escapes.
Despite the blinding spotlight and inconvenient center stage access, participants graciously made their way on stage, adults taking a giant, faltering step while children were lifted onto the stage when called upon, as the rest were left cringing and hoping for the best outcome.
As the second half of the performance began to wind down, Knotts began to infuse his acts with messages, one with color/form changing water to promote positivity, love and gratitude and the crowd went wild.
However, one of the most memorable moments of the night was when Knotts dangled in a straitjacket under a steadily approaching man-sized claw.
As he freed himself and fell from the air onto the crash pad, a moment of silence elapsed and the claw slammed shut just after Knotts rolled to his feet and heroically ran across the stage.
Clearly, he had done this before, but he wasn’t finished yet.
He still had one more trick up his sleeve.
An Unexpected Conclusion
Knotts’s use of all ages in his acts added to his performance, but his warm acknowledgement of military members in the audience won over even the most skeptical of viewers, without a doubt.
Finally, as he settled into his chair, sporting a green jumpsuit, Knotts dedicated the final act, which he called “Ejection,” to those in the military.
After his assistant Lea placed a sheet over his head and pulled a lever that lifted him high in the air, the audience watched the sheet contort before the unthinkable happened.
In a split-second the illusionist transported himself to the back of the auditorium and the sheet on the chair went limp.
The show concluded with everyone on their feet cheering and applauding in awe as Knotts ran down the aisle and jumped onto the stage. A fitting end to a nail-biting performance.