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CRISS ANGEL BELIEVE BY CIRQUE DU SOLEIL

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Luxor

3900 Las Vegas Blvd. S

Las Vegas, NV 89109

800-557-7428

website

$59-$130

Fri, Sun 7pm

Wed-Thu, Sat 7 & 9:30pm

Magic

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AT A GLANCE

What is it?

A heavily revamped (for the better) version of the production featuring illusions, magic, and some Cirque style set pieces starring Criss Angel.

Where is it?

In a big theater at Luxor on the South Strip.

Is it worth the cost?

Yes. It's one of the best magic shows in town these days.

Why should I see this show?

Because you saw an early version of the show (or read the bad reviews) and owe it to yourself to see this much improved version.

What else do I need to know?

This show will close in April, 2016, but Criss Angel will reopen a new show entitled Mindfreak Live in May, 2016 in the same theater.

What's the bottom line?

The old show wasn't very good. This new version is.

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FULL REVIEW

Note: This show will close in April, 2016, but Criss Angel will reopen a new show entitled Mindfreak Live in May, 2016 in the same theater.

It's rare for a show in Las Vegas to drastically improve. Usually they start good, bad, or mediocre and stay that way no matter how many changes, re-castings, or flourishes they throw at it. In all my years writing about the entertainment offerings of the city I can only remember one production that underwhelmed me when it started but improved with all the modifications they made to it over the years - that was Le Rêve at Wynn Las Vegas.

Now, with the revamped Criss Angel production "Believe" at Luxor, there are two.

I don't want to waste a lot of time talking about what it was but it provides context for what it is now and why it's better. Originally it was an uncomfortable marriage of Criss Angel's illusions, which came with a heavy dose of a rock and roll/punk aesthetic, and the staging of Cirque du Soleil, complete with the kind of avant garde theatricality that they are so famous for. Throw in some dance numbers and you had a mish-mash of styles and focal points that probably didn't please Criss Angel fans or Cirque du Soleil fans.

As Angel himself said, "It probably would've worked if I wasn't in it."

The folks at Cirque du Soleil are genius artists but apparently are even more genius business people because they decided to step out of the way to let Angel be Angel.

Most of the Cirque part of this particular Cirque show has been stripped away including all of the dance numbers, most of the extraneous characters, and the entire "plot" about Angel being injured in a magic trick gone awry and traveling through some weird universe between life and death populated by giant rabbits (yeah, you kind of had to be there).

There are enough ghosts of the Cirque machine left over to justify calling it a Cirque show. You see it in the staging, some of the set pieces, the comic relief (why do their "clowns" always have accents? just wondering), and even a leftover giant rabbit or two, all of which pop in here and there to remind you that this is not "just" a magic show.

Now, though, it's mostly just Criss Angel doing what he does best: "how did he do that?" illusions. And there are a lot of them; more than you'll see in any other Vegas magic show. The best of the bunch range from the spectacularly gruesome (his take on the sawing the woman in half bit is stunning but definitely not for the squeamish) to the almost gruesome (razor blades in the mouth - enough said). Also fun are his re-imaginings of classic illusions from his personal heroes like Houdini and some of the close up magic (how do they get all those birds in that cape?).

Not every bit is a total success, at least not to the eyes of a jaded Las Vegas writer who has seen every single magic show ever done in this town. I've gotten to the point where I look for the misdirection instead of going along for the ride, and if you're the same way you may have a few moments of "been there, done that, it was better with a white tiger." Most normal people who haven't been pummeled into a stupor by really bad Vegas magic shows over the years (Showgirls of Magic? Anyone?) will probably think these illusions are just fine.

But perhaps the most surprising and refreshing thing about the show now is that you get to see a surprising and refreshing version of Criss Angel himself. Yes, his signature bad boy look and attitude is still present and accounted for but it is tempered by a more jovial, dare I say "grown up," Criss Angel. He tells jokes and obviously loving stories about his family, complete with photos and home movies, that really softens the hard edges of his persona and makes him a million times more personable and likeable. Before, if you believed the tabloids and his own PR machine at times, he was the magician as rock star; the guy you wanted to go party with until the sun came up. Now, in the show and in person, he comes across as someone that you want to go grab a few drinks with over dinner while tells you more stories about his rabbit "Lucky."

Of course afterward you may still go out and party at a nightclub, but you'll probably be home before dawn.

All of this is to say that "Believe" has undergone a very positive transformation. Perhaps Mr. Angel has as well.

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