IMG 6811As a constant visitor to Las Vegas, I’ve made friends with many of the locals, most of whom work in the hotels, casinos or restaurants. As Vegas residents and hotel employees, they often get free tickets to some of the shows on the Strip. When Criss Angel’s show Believe first opened at the Luxor, I was intrigued. I had seen many of Criss Angel’s illusions on TV, not only in his show Mindfreak, but in the infomercials for his DVD’s and magic sets. I thought “How can you go wrong? Cool magic paired up with Cirque du Soleil? Great!” But when I began to ask my Vegas friends about his show, the reaction was negative, right across the board. I was told there was not enough magic and too much Cirque. I was told the show itself was just lame. I was basically told to avoid the show at all costs.

Still, on one of my trips, the package I bought from Vegas.com included hotel, airfare and two tickets to a show. I had already seen most of the shows on the list they gave me - all but Criss Angel: Believe and Viva Elvis. By now, Believe had run since 2008 , long enough for any glitches to have worked themselves out and any flaws in the show to have been corrected, so I figured “Why not?” I should’ve listened to my friends and gone with Elvis!

As my ticket had basically been a giveaway, my seat was located toward the back of the auditorium, but after sitting there for a while, it seemed clear that the show was not going to be sold out and that the rear section of the house was going to be pretty empty. At about 5 minutes till showtime, ushers came up to the folks in our section and told us we could move up. I grabbed a free seat much closer to the stage. I figured if I was going to write about this show, I should have the best view possible.

The show begins with the requisite video clips of some of Criss Angel’s admittedly astonishing illusions, some done for TV, some done live for spectators on the Vegas Strip. When the curtain rises, Angel is hovering at the top of the proscenium and descends to center stage. There’s a lot of smoke and backlighting, which I’m assuming helps to hide the trick from the audience. It was a nice opening, but nothing terribly new, as I’d hoped to see from this “cutting edge magician”.

He next proceeded to do a trick called Premonition, throwing his wristband into the audience and the people who catch it in turn tell him their name, where they’re from and any word in the English language. He then lowers a locked box, which has been in view of the audience from the start of the show. In the box is a sealed jar containing a piece of paper. When he opens the jar, the paper is shown to have written on it the name, place and word chosen by the three audience members. It was fine, but simply a variation of a trick I’ve seen many times before.

He makes doves appear. Not astounding, as most people know how this trick is done. When they flew from their perches out over the audience, THAT was magical to me. It was one piece of the show I truly enjoyed. There was an pointless bit where a young man chosen from the audience is given props to hold, which “appear” to break, and of course he’s blamed. The young man is asked to sit in a white chair shaped like a human hand. When he stands up, the pinkie finger breaks off of the chair. This was when my REAL problem with the show began. One of the Cirque clowns picked up the finger and held it up to his crotch so that it looked like a large penis. Angel quips “Hey, I’ll bet you never expected to see anything that big in WHITE!!” Okay. Really?! A stupid, stereotyped dick joke?!? This became the continuing level of humor throughout the show. There were pee-pee and poo-poo jokes galore: A small puppet resembling Criss Angel is held up to the audience and “urinates” on them. One of the doves “poops” onstage. Even a real picture is flashed up on screen of Angel sitting on the toilet as a young boy. It was all juvenile and embarrassing.

The larger illusions - Tronik; a large monster fights Angel, who disappears during the battle, and the monster is eventually revealed to be Angel himself, Metamorphosis; a classic illusion, presented by Angel without the standard curtains to hide the trick, and Angel’s take on the old “Sawing the Woman in Two” trick (a giant machine with a huge circular saw is used), were well performed, with lots more smoke, backlighting and huge props, but still not as cutting edge as I was hoping for. I started to feel as if this was a children’s birthday party magic show with a big budget.

Even Angel’s signature look seemed to have been neglected. Rather than the sleek, sexy, smooth chested rock star guy, with the open blouse and tight leather pants, I thought he looked more like Sam Kinison, the late stand-up comic. He looked kind of dirty, grungy and bored.

So...what was my problem? I really wanted to like this show, despite the warnings I had received. I like magic shows. I even truly believe that Criss Angel is talented. I just think the concept overwhelmed the show. I’ve read descriptions and a “set list” of the show as it originally played, and it sounds as if it was too strange, confusing and VERY concept-heavy. The true talents of the star weren’t allowed to be the focus of the show. I don’t know if this was the director’s fault, Cirque du Soleil’s fault, or the fault of Criss Angel himself. After some very negative reviews, the show was apparently re-tooled, but the show being presented now seems to me to be an insulting, embarrassing mess. To be quite honest, I wanted to leave after about 20 minutes, but knowing I was going to write about it for MVO, I decided to tough it out. I stayed until the bows, but left before his “one last trick” encore. I didn’t even get a t-shirt - and I get t-shirts to everything!

Here is my suggestion to you. If you are one of Criss Angel’s huge fan base, by all means go and see the show. Try to get discounted tickets if possible, but if you like him, you should see it. If, however, you are a fan of theater, Cirque du Soleil, big production magic shows, or just plain good, smart entertainment, I’d say you’d be better off spending your money elsewhere. Try one of the slot machines in the Luxor’s casino. Your money will magically disappear, but I guarantee you’ll be more entertained!