Theatre Review: The Unbelievables is a magical, modern spectacle

Seeing is believing. Especially when you are watching a theatre show like, The Unbelievables. This variety show comes from the producers of The Illusionists and Circus 1903 and promises to be the “greatest” one on earth. The finished product is a grand assortment of different treats and tricks, with performers from multiple disciplines and presentations that left you sitting and staring in wonderment.

Like The Illusionists and Circus 1903, The Unbelievables mixes high production values with a brand of modern circus artistry. It is all about putting on a frenetic, constantly-changing modern spectacle that keeps the audience on their toes. The night is helmed by New York City comic, Harrison Greenbaum who delivered some illusions of his own in between a great array of wise cracks. Perhaps his best joke of the night was his thoughts on Australia: “Twelve hours ahead and four years behind.”

One of the first acts for the evening was a Tony-award winning ventriloquist named, Jay Johnson. He performed two separate pieces, one with a puppet monkey and the other with a human doll named Bob. The latter was the punchier and funnier spot and you got the sense that this one provided a better interplay between the artist and the puppet. Johnson is certainly talented but his act is not as mind-boggling as some of the other artists on this particular bill.

If you wanted some real head-scratching moments that left you wondering, “How do they do that?” then this was best left to Shin Lim AKA The Virtuoso with his amazing sleight of hand. He performed some fantastic card tricks including some that incorporated smoke and another one where he made a large texta disappear. Sadly, the camera people couldn’t keep up with his physical prowess and they didn’t frame Lim properly on the video, so some of these moments were lost on the big screen of the cavernous Concert Hall. This was rather disappointing.

Husband and wife team, Sos and Victoria Petrosyan also dazzled audiences with their quick changes, a performance style that sees an artist change to a new costume within a matter of seconds. They hold multiple world records for quick changes and Victoria got through a crazy number of different outfits in their time. But perhaps the most astounding one was when she appeared in a white floating dress amidst a sea of glitter.

For those wanting amazing physical feats, the hand-balancing duo of Alan Pagnota and Rafael Ferreira plus The Titan AKA Artem Lyubanevych were your men. The former pair used immense balance, strength and poise to assume a variety of different positions where they were able to support each other’s weight. This is spectacular in and of itself but it’s an even greater feat when you realise that Ferreira has congenital arthrogryposis and is wheelchair-bound. Lyubanevych meanwhile, was suspended at the greatest height ever seen in the Concert Hall as he shimmied and basically pole-danced his way to the topper-most of the popper-most (and he didn’t even have a harness or a net!)

Those wanting thrills could also get their kicks during the crazy, knife-throwing antics of Alfredo and Anna Silva’s act. There were spinning wheels, blindfolds and cross bars added into this breath-taking spectacle. Brett Loudermilk’s sword swallowing antics were also exciting but not for the faint-hearted.

The individuals seeking something a little less daring could delight in Julia Kurkina’s sand art where she drew different world monuments in sand and was accompanied by the tune, “What A Wonderful World.” Roberto Carlos on the other hand, managed to manipulate juggling pins and balls with his mouth and hands. He managed to manoeuvre everything so fast you almost felt like you’d blink and miss it.

The soundtrack to the show was upbeat and jazzy and was played by a large show band. We were treated to a vocal powerhouse with blue mermaid hair known as Emi Secrest. She has also sung back-up for Macy Gray. There were also six dancers who provided an amazing display of Latin and ballroom dancing styles as well as different lifts and drops not dissimilar to those seen in Dirty Dancing. The outfits designed by Angela Aaron were gorgeous and added a dash of Hollywood to the show.

The Unbelievables had been a mixed assortment of cool moments, cheeky humour and illusions that left you on the edge of your seat wondering how they did it. Some of these slots would appeal to certain audience members over others, but overall there was a little something for everybody in this fun, family-friendly show that left you guessing. The proceedings may have worked a tad better in a slightly smaller venue but for the most part, this was a big night of entertainment that showcased some extraordinary novelties and the kind of dazzling artistry you’d typically associate with variety shows from a golden age.


Photo credit: Jacquie Manning
Photos supplied and used with permission

The Unbelievables plays at the Sydney Opera House until 29 December 2017. It then plays Melbourne’s Hamer Hall from 3-13 January 2018 and Perth’s Crown Theatre from 18-28 January 2018. Tickets can be purchased via


This content has recently been ported from its original home on Arts on the AU and may have formatting errors – images may not be showing up, or duplicated, and galleries may not be working. We are slowly fixing these issue. If you spot any major malfunctions making it impossible to read the content, however, please let us know at editor AT