[Robin Leach: Luxe Life]

Criss Angel, Part II: A 15-year dream fulfilled with haunting Believe

“Believe will be unlike any show the world has ever seen,” said Mindfreak magician Criss Angel from backstage at the Luxor theater. “It is beyond even my wildest dreams -- absolutely incredible,” as he took a break from rehearsals for his new $100 million Cirque du Soleil spectacular that will open this September.

Criss continued: “Rehearsals are going amazingly well and its fantastic to see an idea that I first had 15 years ago finally coming to fruition and taking shape. It began with prototypes being drawn on a napkin all those years ago and now it’s becoming a reality right in front of my own eyes. Now that’s magic! It’s so extraordinary to be able to execute the art of my illusions with the art of Cirque. Everything about the special effects, the costumes and the story line is intensified tenfold. We have succeeded in creating an experience that hasn’t followed anybody else’s previous path. It will definitely be one now that everybody else will follow for years to come.”

Serge Denoncourt, Cirque’s director and co-writer on the project, agrees: “It’s a haunting trip through the baroque theater of Criss’s brain – inside his mind as he hovers between the land of the living and a surreal world uniquely woven together. (These new photos of the show illustrate that point.) These are Criss’s dramatic illusions in a distinct setting imagined and immersed in Cirque du Soleil artistry.” An official Cirque statement points out: “There will be no nudity, no acrobatics but there will be live music. The show explores the inventive mind of Criss Angel. His masterful illusions are set in a very surreal and enigmatic manner. The scenes will include some illusions of violence but in an artistic manner. It will not necessarily be scary but be aware that there is graphic show content that may alarm some audience members. Unlike traditional magic-themed shows ‘Believe’ transcends any preconceived notion of what it means to be truly emotionally engaged by the arts of mysticism and illusion. Imagine a fantasy, an allegory, a highly theatrical tableau of mood, reverie and emotion set against a backdrop of dreamlike darkness and light.

Criss stars as a surreal, enigmatic Victorian Noble. Along a path of imaginative exploration, he encounters Kayala and Crimson, two women who represent different aspects of femininity, four bizarre Ushers, who will introduce the audience to the baroque theater of Criss's mind and a high-energy troupe of characters and dancers who mix a multitude of styles into a high-energy visual feast, punctuated by moments of grace and sensuality. It is not like Mindfreak because the stunning illusions will not be presented as standalone elements, but as interdependent components using heightened imagery, fantastical creatures and impossible feats of legerdemain, all integrated into the dazzling, colorful fabric of the story. However, the show will be a fantasy, an allegory, a highly theatrical tableau of mood, reverie and emotion set against a backdrop of dreamlike darkness and light.

“The show will run 90 minutes and be performed twice nightly except on Wednesday and Thursday of each week. The furthest seat from the stage is less than 110 feet away so everybody -- including the Loyals -- will be really close to him.”

You can now go to Criss Angel's Web site and click on “The Show” section to watch a backstage video of Criss in the costume room and Denoncourt talking about the unique production.

The implausible, inconceivable illusionist admitted that with rehearsals in full swing for the fall premiere he’s now only sleeping three hours a day and working out for two hours every day. “The show blurs all boundary between reality and illusion It really is the mind, body and sprit all coming together,” he added. “I always felt that magic was a beautiful art form, but magicians killed it because of their hokey presentations. But I believed that if you presented the art of magic outside the box it would be limitless and finally garner the respect that it deserves."

“For people who have regularly watched Mindfreak we have already achieved amazing things your eyes cannot believe. But Believe goes way beyond that experience -- and it’s all-live, right in front of the audience, so the bar is raised to the highest place in magic. We have an amazing team and I have been videotaping all the rehearsals. Its unbelievable to me when I play it back later in my room. The experience is unlike anything out there or ever conceived to be out there.

“This year on Mindfreak I have an episode titled ‘Skeptic,’ and I am inviting all those people who don’t ‘Believe’ to come play with me and see there is no trick photography. It will certainly change their point of view -- and my life, my career, is on the line. When they also come to see Believe they will see everything live right before their eyes- and that will end their skepticism.”

I asked Criss if the tornado originating from his mouth and expanding to surround the entire theater audience was still scheduled for the show. He confirmed it is but added: “Just wait ’til you see the levitation. Our acts of levitation are so incredible even other magicians won’t believe what we are doing. I will go right out into the audience and levitate somebody right out of their seat!”

Criss also revealed that he has developed his own magical lounge-bar and an interactive destination sanctuary that will open once Believe is up and running smoothly. “Guests will be able to hang out with things from the show. They’ll want to be there from early in the morning until late at night,” he said. He’s totally confident about Believe and isn’t fazed about the two setback delays in recent weeks that pushed the gala opening back to the new official Oct. 10 date, although previews will get underway Sept. 12 -- the original opening!

“All just technical and construction delays that were out of our hands,” said Luxor President Felix Rappaport. “Criss and Cirque were unable to get into the new theater on the date we’d planned, so everything got pushed back a couple of weeks. This is a massive undertaking -- and maybe the most challenging ever attempted on the Strip. Everybody wants it absolutely perfect, and now it will be and everything is running smoothly back on track again.” So Believe will be here before the Presidential election: Loyals, just 79 days to go!


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