With a reputation as being one of the worst shows in Las Vegas, some would consider me crazy to attend Criss Angel Believe. Housed in the Luxor, the theatre is much nicer than one would anticipate. A collection of fancy motorcycles are on display in the lobby, belonging to Criss. The snack bar contained the usual assortment of overpriced drinks and snacks. Upon entering the lobby, one must pass through a metal detector and be subjugated to a bag search. This element of airport style security at a theatrical venue is worrying and is perhaps a sign of the times we live in. The ushers and other theatrical workers all wore shirts with rabbits on them.
The theatre is about the size of every other Cirque show. Brass statues of rabbits decorated the proscenium of the theatre, which later came to life in a display of the rabbit pulling a Criss Angel head out of a magician style top hat. Upon the start of the show, a stagehand came out and did the usual no cell phone, photography, recording speech. After this she summoned a person in the audience that was an obvious plant. He had a phone conversation with a red phone attached to the stage where Criss said he was on top of the Luxor pyramid and asked him to entertain the audience. Several other actors emerged onstage where they performed a mini-magic show consisting of ordinary illusions, one including pulling a rope through a woman and removing her bra with it as it passed out behind her. A second was a sword swallowing display.
After some flashing lights, smoke, and fireworks, Criss enters the stage levitating. The entire show was more of a conversation with Criss Angel rather than a magic show or even Cirque Du Soleil show. There was nothing Cirque about the show other than some actors in different rabbit costumes walking across the stage. One resembled the costume style of the giraffes in The Lion King. There were no acrobatics, no dancing, and no unique soundtrack, which leaves one puzzled how this is a Cirque Du Soleil show. The show has gone through some major revisions and resembled nothing like other reviewers had described. Some had described Criss as only being onstage for a small part of the show; however Criss was on stage for practically the entire show. I had heard the second half of the show involved Criss being tormented by rabbits in hell, but what I saw was nothing like that.
The content and flow of the show was troubled as well. For an audience that contained more children than the average Las Vegas show, the jokes were quite adult in nature. In one part Criss brought a thirteen-year-old boy on stage and had one of his female dancers do a skit with him and made reference to him having an erection and the need to keep his hand out of his pocket. In another part of the show Criss asked for a female volunteer who was over eighteen and spoke to several girls to which he asked their age. One said she was fourteen and one of the actors came running out into the audience to get her. Although it may have been an attempt at humor, statutory rape is not funny. The jokes and humor of the show were too crude for an audience that contained so many children, and gave the show an overall distasteful nature.
The illusions Criss presented were a mix of typical magic show tricks and some unique ones. The majority of his illusions involved switches, where he and a female dancer would somehow switch places instantly. Criss also performed a standard prediction effect where numbers and names of different things chosen by random people in the audience some how appear inside a sealed tube in a chest that had been hovering over the stage. This illusion is seen in at least three other Las Vegas shows. A performance of the classic cups and balls, which was done with giant cups and people as the balls, did not seem to impress the audience. This illusion became more of performers appearing magically under the cups rather than the classic jumping of the balls. With the elevated platform it was performed on it was obvious the performers were entering through trapdoors.
One of the memorable illusions included Criss making a motorcycle appear out of nowhere. An image of all the motorcycles in his collection was projected onto a screen. A large structure was brought out onstage that was demonstrated to be empty underneath and around all sides. Next a large box was assembled on the structure. It was opened to prove it was empty. Criss then asked the girl to pick one of the motorcycles and about three seconds later the box was opened to display the supposedly chosen motorcycle. It had seemingly appeared out of nowhere.
Unfortunately, giving a more detailed description of the show is not possible due to a visit from a friendly Luxor security guard. As with any show review, note taking is essential to remember specific parts. About halfway into the show I was approached by the security guard who asked if I had written permission from Cirque Du Soleil to take notes during the show, because someone from above had called down about it. I replied that there were no signs saying note taking was forbidden but I would stop. The staff at Believe was taking the threat of recording very seriously and was constantly walking up and down the aisles searching for people attempting to record the show.
The negative reputation of Believe is somewhat exaggerated. The removal of all Cirque elements was somewhat disappointing especially since there were no acrobatics. Cirque has had their share of blunders but they should really not be associated with a show that is so un-Cirque. The only thing that did remain Cirque about the show was the price. The bad reputation of the show did not seem to deter the audience as the show was almost sold out. Criss Angel fans will enjoy being able to see Criss live, complete with his Mind Freak style metal music blaring throughout the show. Criss enjoys talking about himself a lot, spending a generous amount of time discussing his career and influences growing up. With all the other good Cirque shows in town there is no reason to spend big bucks on a ticket to Believe when just as good smaller magic shows are available in town and a more traditional mesmerizing Cirque experience can be had for the same price.
7 pm Tuesday - Saturday 7 pm and 9:30 pm Tuesday, Friday and Saturday Dark Sunday and Monday
CHRIS ANGEL Believe
7 p.m. Tue-Sat + 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday
Phone: 800-557-7428 or 702-262-4400
$128.85 to $206.95 (includes tax)
Editors note: Since this article was written, the name of Chris Angel's show has changed to Mindfreak.