A 15-year dream finally comes true for Mindfreak magician Criss Angel tonight. This is it! After two years of pre-production and 30 days of preview rehearsals, the curtain goes up on the world premiere of his $100 million Believe show with Cirque du Soleil. It also marks the 82nd anniversary of the Halloween death of his hero, Hungarian-born Harry Houdini.
Criss built the very first concept models of his show from “gaffer” tape and cardboard back in 1993 when he still lived at home with his parents in Long Island. His original Mindfreak live shows in New York began in 2001 after his mother let him mortgage their home to finance the show. Suffice to say that success led to the smash-hit A&E cable TV series -- and eventually his own Vegas Strip show complete with giant photograph of the star plastered all over his home hotel casino.
“The first time I came to Vegas I hardly had a penny to my name,” Criss told me. “Maybe $300 tops. I actually stayed in a rundown motel opposite the Luxor. I rented the cheapest room and the cheapest car -- but I’d drive up and down the Strip and see all those star names like Siegfried & Roy up in lights, and I vowed one day I would make it happen for me.”
The perseverance paid off, and he eventually made the partnership deal with both the Luxor and Cirque’s founder, Guy Laliberte.
“It would never have happened without them,” Criss added. “It’s the story of my life. You’ll find Alice in Wonderland in there at the same time as Wizard of Oz -- and of course Mindfreak. There is light and dark in my head, there is good and bad out there in the world -- and the show explores that using magical illusions woven into the storytelling. That is a first because it’s never been done before, and magic shows normally are a series of boxes. I’ve removed all the boxes, and you get to see the magic actually happening right before your eyes. We could never have done this without Cirque. They made the dream become real.”
Siegfried will join fellow Vegas magicians Penn & Teller, Johnny Thompson, Nathan Burton, Gerry McCambridge and Amazing Johnathan for the “black carpet” arrivals tonight. American Idol judge Paula Abdul has been added to the celebrity list to attend tonight’s premiere. Lance Burton, another friend, will be tied up with his own show at the Monte Carlo, but Criss proudly points to the official program, which gives Lance the credit for the amazing cascading waterfall rain illusion that he features in Believe. CLICK HERE for the list of all the other stars attending that we revealed earlier this week.
It’s a jam-packed day for Criss as he starts Day 1 of his run of 4,600 shows over the next decade. At noon he will attend the traditional opening-day Cirque conference, then he’ll sit for some exclusive one-on-one interviews including with yours truly. We’ll also talk briefly about how much impact the innovative brilliance of Houdini had over Criss. The turn-of-the century magician was born Erik Weisz in March 1874 and only lived until Oct. 31,1926, but had a worldwide following with his never-before-seen illusions and sensational impossible escapes. I’ll also be talking to Cirque founder Laliberte, who apparently has wanted for 20 years to add a magic act to his repertoire of circus variety shows.
We’ll post that on our new VegasDeluxe.com Web site early tomorrow morning. At 5 p.m., as a 500-strong media invasion gets ready for the arrivals, Criss will be in hair, makeup and costume for his own black carpet appearance and a surprise he’s promised me.
Then he’ll have to race backstage to be fitted with his radio mics and transmitters for "curtain-up.” Although it’s a 7 p.m. call, it’s doubtful with all the stars attending that the show will get underway much before 7:30 p.m. Almost two hours and 23 illusions later -- including a walk down a wall, an escape from a 60-foot hanging straitjacket, a battle with a robot built on the stage from broken parts and the ultimate vanishing finale -- Criss will heave a sigh of relief that the dream finally came true. For the first time in 30 days, he’ll unwind and relax at the $1 million gala bash that follows at the Luxor pool.
His mother, his aunt and his brothers will all be there to join him in the magical moment. Then the world’s press will be watching breathlessly to see who else he celebrates Believe’s unveiling with, and my prediction is that will make more global headlines. Be sure to click back here for our live, as-it-happens celebrity carpet report at 6 p.m.!
Then as all the Internet systems are switched over through the night, be sure to click to www.vegasdeluxe.com tomorrow morning for our full video and photo reports of the biggest magical event of the decade!