Criss Angel Mindfreak
At a Glance
What is it?
A new version of illusionist Criss Angel’s long-running production.
Where is it?
In the mezzanine theater at Planet Hollywood on the Center Strip.
Is it worth the cost?
If his past shows are any indication then yes.
Why should I see this show?
Because you’re a fan illusions and spectacle.
What else do I need to know?
The show opens December 19, 2018.
What’s the bottom line?
We could all use a little magic in our lives.
One of the ways you stay successful in Las Vegas is to never stay still for too long. This applies to hotels, which remodel everything every couple of years, restaurants, which continually tweak their menus, and shows, which update everything from set to the set list just to keep people coming back. Those that don’t often find themselves facing a final curtain sooner than they had hoped.
Criss Angel did 10 very successful years at Luxor and now is moving his illusions to Planet Hollywood for what is being called an all-new show. I’m looking forward to seeing it based upon the last iteration that played until October 2018.
The show went through some pretty substantial changes since it debuted in 2008, all of which served to make it a better show every time I saw it. But the most recent changes were so fundamental that it drove an entirely new name for the production, shifting from the Cirque du Soleil driven “Believe” to the Criss Angel brand “Mindfreak Live.” While there were still a few Cirque influences evident in the show, this is mostly purely distilled Criss Angel and who that is may surprise you.
The new show featured several of the same illusions as before but they were wrapped up in a darker, more emotional, more engaging wrapper. Video and a giant LED screen at the back of the stage were used effectively to create a creepy vibe that tapped into the apocalyptic zeitgeist that has been well established with shows like “American Horror Story.” It was effective and affecting, giving new life to his spectacularly gruesome take on the sawing the woman in half bit and the almost gruesome razor blades in the mouth trick. Also fun were his re-imaginings of classic illusions from his personal heroes like Houdini and some of the close up magic featuring coins and more birds than you should be able to fit into a cape..
New pieces included an homage to fellow magician Lance Burton that recreates a bit he used to do in his show – a sword fight with a masked man – and put a 21st century, high tech spin on it with 3D graphics and a really cool slow-motion effect that evoked “The Matrix” where Neo dodges bullets. Another involved lasers in both a physics and mind-bending way that provided plenty of “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience.
But perhaps the biggest shift in the show and in Angel himself was brought about by a personal journey he went through as his young son dealt with leukemia. He has always been actively involved in raising money for children’s charities but when it affected his family he turned up the dial on those efforts by incorporating it into the production. The classic levitation bit where he seemingly makes someone float was reimagined as a tribute to children with cancer, including video and photographs of kids he has met that have dealt with the disease. It’s both heartbreaking and uplifting – a celebration of life and a giant middle finger to cancer.
I lost my best friend to cancer and I have had cancer myself and I am not at all ashamed to admit that the segment brought me to tears. Yes, Criss Angel made me cry. Who knew?
The production ended with Angel himself taking “flight” as he floats around the stage and through contraptions that seemingly make it impossible that he could be doing this on wires. In a word: stunning.
Criss Angel has been performing in Las Vegas now for the better part of a decade and his success can be attributed to that idea that you can’t stand still in this town. His new show at a new hotel proves that he has no intention of slowing down any time soon.
A footnote… during the show, Criss Angel mentions that donation boxes in the lobby will collect money for his Johnny Crisstopher Children’s Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that raises awareness of pediatric cancer and provides funds for research, treatment, and a cure. Unlike many other non-profit charities, 100% of donations go directly to this fight and not one cent will be deducted for any expenses, salaries, or overhead. Criss Angel has funded the operations of the foundation out of his own pocket since its inception in 2008. It has now become his life’s mission (after working with childhood causes since 2001) when recently his own child, Johnny Crisstopher was diagnosed with leukemia in 2015 at 20 months old.
If you see the show, stop by those donation boxes or, go online to donate now at crissangel.com/donations