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CRISS ANGEL MINDFREAK LIVE!

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Luxor

3900 Las Vegas Blvd. S

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702-262-4400

website

$64-$196

Wed-Sun 7 & 9:30pm

Magic

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AT A GLANCE

What is it?

A new version of illusionist Criss Angel's long-running production.

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 entertainment experiences in Las Vegas.

Why should I see this show?

Because you're a fan illusions and spectacle.

What else do I need to know?

It's still co-produced by Cirque du Soleil but it's mostly Angel's vision, hence the new title.

What's the bottom line?

We could all use a little magic in our lives.

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FULL REVIEW

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's show at Luxor has undergone 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 are 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 are 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 features several of the same illusions as before but they are wrapped up in a darker, more emotional, more engaging wrapper. Video and a giant LED screen at the back of the stage are used effectively to create a creepy vibe that taps into the apocalyptic zeitgeist that has been well established with shows like "American Horror Story." It's 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 are 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 include 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 puts a 21st century, high tech spin on it with 3D graphics and a really cool slow-motion effect that evokes "The Matrix" where Neo dodges bullets. Another involves 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 has been brought about by a personal journey he is going through as his young son has been dealing with leukemia. He has always been actively involved in raising money for children's charities but now that it has affected his family he has turned up the dial on those efforts by incorporating it into the production. The classic levitation bit where he seemingly makes someone float has been reimagined as a tribute to children with cancer, including video and photographs of kids he has met that have dealt with cancer. It's both heartbreaking and uplifting - a celebration of life and a giant middle finger to the disease.

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 ends 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. Mindfreak Live 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

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