It would have been much easier for Criss Angel to just make a few adjustments to his long-running show at the Luxor and transplant it into his new home on the Strip at Planet Hollywood. But that’s not what’s happening. The road he chose has been keeping him up 20 hours a day, he says, as he works nonstop to prep an incredibly ambitious new version of Criss Angel: Mindfreak that opens for preview shows December 26.
“I’m motivated by creating art that elevates my game, that challenges me and creates the passion and excitement in me that makes me want to be up 21 hours a day, seven days a week,” he says after showing me around the newly rechristened Criss Angel Theater on Planet Hollywood’s mezzanine level. “I want to make things that connect to people emotionally, things that will leave their mouths open and they’ll say, ‘I’ve never experienced anything like this.’ Ultimately that’s the only thing I care about.”
Angel completed a decade of shows (more than 4,000 of them) at Luxor a little more than six weeks ago, a run that began in 2008 as a collaboration with Cirque du Soleil titled Criss Angel: Believe. After some natural evolution, Angel assumed complete creative control and refashioned it into Mindfreak Live in 2016, a version that better resonated with his loyal fanbase. When the Cirque deal expired and it was time to move on, he decided to pass on a lucrative offer to tour the world for the next nine months in order to create the show of his dreams at Planet Hollywood, in the showroom where he filmed the first two seasons of his popular Mindfreak TV show starting in 2005.
“It’s not about money for me. I want to create that experience for the audience that they’ve never had in their life, and you can’t really do that technologically on the road doing one-nighters or even a couple days. You’re limited,” he says. “Some of this new material has been a long time in the making, things I wasn’t able to do to the extent I would like in my [Luxor show] because I had certain parameters for different reasons. Here, I’m the executive producer, I’m the writer, I’m the director. I own the show. If the show sinks it’s my fault, and if it’s successful it’s my fault.”
The renovation of the theater might be the most extensive and expensive such project in the Strip’s history. “We had to re-engineer and redesign the structure of the theater to house the show,” he says. And Angel has pioneered unique sponsorships, partnerships and endorsements with lighting, sound and technology companies to power the production.
During our tour, Angel detailed the immersive, interactive and shareable experiences that will saturate the lobby area, the cinematic “lighter” and “darker” halls that lead into the theater and the seemingly infinite amounts of LED ceiling installations, 4K projectors and moving lights that will transform the theater.
“I have an incredible team of about 150 people working on this,” he says. “I had Jerry Nadal, who is director of shows for Cirque du Soleil, come see this, and he was blown away. He said, ‘Wow, you’re doing something that’s never been done before.’”
Which is, of course, all Angel has ever wanted.
CRISS ANGEL: MINDFREAK Opening for previews December 26; Wednesday-Sunday, 7 p.m., $69-$139. Criss Angel Theater at Planet Hollywood, 702-777-2782.