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April 24, 2014

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Criss Angel reflects on five years of ‘Believe’ and reveals new project ‘Wymzkal’

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

Guy Laliberte and Criss Angel arrive on the blue carpet for Cirque du Soleil’s “One Night for One Drop” at Hyde Bellagio on Friday, March 22, 2013.

Criss Angel in Times Square for Spike TV

Criss Angel in Times Square in New York for his Spike TV series “Believe.” Launch slideshow »

Despite serious injuries and an around-the-clock work schedule, including two TV series, magician Criss Angel has never missed one of his more than 2,100 shows in the five years since he launched Cirque du Soleil’s “Believe” at the Luxor.

This week, we learned that “Believe” will shut down in January while Criss undergoes shoulder surgery and three months of rehab. He’ll return full time to “Believe” in April. During February and March, he’ll introduce and appear in a limited-engagement show featuring the world’s greatest magicians, some of whom are featured on his new Spike TV series, also titled “Believe.”

In advance of tonight’s fifth-anniversary celebration, I sat with Criss in his 60,000-square-foot state-of-the-art headquarters located minutes off the Strip. In a wide-ranging interview, I talked with him about his milestone “Believe” show and his future plans.

Does it feel like five years already?

Yes and no at the same time. It’s kind of an interesting dichotomy because in some ways I can’t believe it’s only been five years and in other ways it feels like an eternity.

It got off to a rocky start, but it’s now the most successful magic show in the world. You had your hand in all of it from start to finish. Why is it still going strong, and why is it getting stronger?

In the beginning, there was a director that Cirque employed who drove a very different vision of the show. While there were a lot of great elements in the show, it didn’t connect with my fans or Cirque fans. Cirque then gave me the opportunity to rewrite and redirect the show and allowed me to build a new show around my original vision.

It’s been very rewarding to see it turn into such a big success. The new show is a testament to my cast, crew, Cirque, Luxor and, of course, my incredible manager who supported my vision and helped bring it to fruition.

And with Cirque’s blessing to allow you to completely change the show?

We got to a point where we both could have walked away from the show. But with their support, I choose to work my ass off and create the show I originally wanted.

Doubling down, right?

Yes, and Cirque and Luxor did, as well.

What do you change for the next five years? I understand the show is changing all the time, and you constantly give it a new look, a new feel. But how are you going to do that over the next five years?

In several ways. I’m never completely satisfied with anything that I do whether it’s on television or live onstage. I’m always striving to be better as a person and in everything I do, and the live show is no different. It’s a living organism, and I always want to keep it new and fresh.

For example, I will have new costumes, new illusions and new video content in the show by the first half of next year. And we just completed the new lighting design in time for the fifth anniversary. Also, you’ll never see the same show twice because I don’t read off a TelePrompTer; I don’t have a rigid script. We do what we feel is right for the audience in front of us, and no two shows are the same.

Criss Angel’s ‘Believe’ on Spike TV

Criss Angel’s “Believe” on Spike TV.

Launch slideshow »

We’re honored and flattered, especially in these trying economic times, for our huge turnouts, and we give 110 percent in every performance because we understand that we’re never going to have this audience ever again. It’s their first time, it’s our first time, and together we want to create an experience they’ll never forget.

So you added in the last go-round the motorcycle illusion?

Yes, and we also are adding a brand new opening …

When will that be added?

It’s almost completed and will be in the show in 2014. In the meantime, we have other exciting, new and original illusions going in, and we’re constantly rotating stuff.

Do you have anything specific that you’ve changed starting for the fifth?

If you saw the show six months ago, you’ll see a different show today. And if you see it six months from now, you’ll see even more exciting, dramatic changes. And, as always, there’s more magic in this show than any magic show in the world.

You’re in the final five of a 10-year deal. Can this become the first five of a new 10? Would you be willing to extend?

I honestly don’t know the answer to that. I have so many different projects and opportunities right now that I barely know what’s happening two weeks from now, never mind five years from now. I just take each show one at a time.

Any of those projects you can share?

I’m excited about a new project called “Wymzkal,” which is a touring show featuring the world’s greatest magicians. It will launch in 2014, and I’ll pop in once in a while. Also, it will take our message of our live show “Believe” all over the world so that when people come to Las Vegas, “Believe” will be the first show on their minds to come see.

After Spike is over, does your life ease up? Do you get to start to cut back on 22 hours a day at work?

I wish that I could. We’re burning the candle at both ends at the moment. My goal is to get through December, deal with my surgery, complete the preparations for the limited-engagement show, which starts in February, prepare for my upcoming TV projects and deal with my recovery and physical therapy.

I also have to finish a commercial for GM, commercials for my show and magic products and a whole host of crazy stuff. If you can figure out how I can do all that and still ease up, I’m all ears!

Criss Angel Launches MagicPlace.com

Criss Angel launches MagicPlace.com at Bare Pool Lounge in the Mirage on Monday, Aug. 15, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Criss Angel's Birthday and 1,000th Believe Show

Criss Angel's birthday and 1,000th Believe performance at the Luxor on Dec. 11, 2010. Launch slideshow »

So you’re still committed to a lot of work in your life?

I guess it’s in my DNA. I’m going to work my ass off till I don’t have the passion or the desire for it anymore. I’m very lucky to do what I love, even though it consumes and overwhelms me at times.

So where does this leave time for a personal life?

It’s a very difficult balancing act, and if I lay down for five minutes, I just fall asleep because I’m exhausted. For example, I started today by getting up, going to the gym, went straight to hair and makeup, taped my TV series all day and then rushed to this interview with you.

I have a meeting with Cirque, and then I have to perform two shows tonight of “Believe” at the Luxor. And to top it off, they’ll give me two episodes of my TV series to watch and give notes on because I’m editing this stuff, so I’ll be up to three, four in the morning.

But the level of enthusiasm for it is …

Oh, I am more excited and passionate about what we’re doing than I’ve ever been. Even more so than with “Mindfreak.” When “Mindfreak” happened, it took off, and we weren’t prepared for the production demands that went along with that success. I was always playing catch-up because I didn’t have the experience, the infrastructure and the team that we have now.

So for the last three years, besides working on “Believe,” I created this amazing infrastructure, built an incredible team and built a 60,000-square-foot facility that is basically our own little world where we can create whatever we want in-house, practice it, stage it, shoot it, edit it, whatever. I now have the tools and the team to do what I was never able to do in the past, and because of that I am unbelievably excited about the opportunity to take my magic and my art to an unprecedented new level.

Your drive and passion are incredible and obviously contagious with the people who work with you. What I find most fascinating is that despite getting amazing reviews such as the only A-plus-rated magic show in Las Vegas, you don’t rest on your laurels and keep working away.

It can always be better.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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