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September 17, 2019

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Criss Angel hits 6th anniversary at Luxor, expands empire with ‘The Supernaturalists’

'Believe' by Criss Angel and Cirque du Soleil

Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com/APWI

Believe” by Criss Angel and Cirque du Soleil at the Luxor photographed in January 2013.

Criss Angel navigates his career in the same way he rides the Skeleton or Insanity or any of the custom motorcycles lining the entrance of his show at Luxor. He’s full-throttle, focused on the road ahead, uninterested on what’s left behind.

Sometimes, Angel lays the bike down. So what? He just climbs back aboard, cinches the helmet and roars away.

Angel just celebrated the sixth anniversary of “Believe,” his onstage collaboration with Cirque du Soleil at a theater that, too, was long ago customized to his specifications. Angel burst onstage on Halloween night to an energized audience, but the crowd’s cheering wasn’t enough. It never is, even after six years and nearly 2,500 performances. After striding out in his traditional black jeans and matching vest, Angel called out, “I can’t hear you!” as the crowd roared back.

Angel remains one of the tireless entertainers in Las Vegas, and believe me that no one works harder at perfecting his or her craft than Luxor’s star magician for the past six years. He sleeps four hours a night; his shortest workday is 15 hours. He has amassed a 60,000-square-foot magic compound in Las Vegas, full of props and staging and under-development tricks. He has just updated his show to spotlight a trick in which he vanishes from the stage and appears, seconds later, elsewhere. And if you see the show, he might well wind up in the seat next to you. It’s great fun … unless the magician supplants your date.

The latest from Angel are a pair of new stage productions as he strives to advance the live magic experience in the same way his promotional partner Cirque has morphed the circus. The first is a live version of “Mindfreak,” his long-running show on A&E, aptly titled, “Mindfreak Live!” with himself at the center. This show represents Angel’s first stage performances outside Las Vegas since he launched “Believe,” as it’s headed for Foxwoods hotel-casino in Connecticut from Nov. 13-15.

This booking is the manifestation of Angel’s close relationship with Foxwoods head Felix Rappaport, who signed Angel to the Luxor contract in 2006 when Rappaport was the overlord of the pyramid (Rappaport also has lured Carrot Top, another favorite from his Luxor days, for a performance at Foxwoods on Nov. 8).

But the second production is what Angel is really fired up about. Titled “The Supernaturalists,” the show premieres at Foxwoods in June. Angel is the producer of this ensemble project, which is built as a kind of all-star lineup of magicians and illusionists in much the same fashion as “Magic Jam,” the show that was staged at Luxor last year when Angel was sidelined after shoulder surgery.

Each of the seven casts members of “The Supernaturalists” is a seasoned and highly acclaimed stage performer. Each has a title: Brett Daniels is “The Illusionist,” Cosentino is “The Mystifier,” Banachek is “The Mentalist” (not to be confused with Gerry McCambridge, who uses that title for his show at V Theater), Adrian Vega is “The Street Performer Phenom,” Krystyn is the “Femme Fetale of Legerdemain,” Johnny is “The Dog Whisperer of Magic” and The Maestro is “The Joker.” This is indeed Mateo Amieva, Angel’s sidekick in “Believe” during its entire run.

Also in the offing, sometime in 2015, is yet another TV project with Angel at the center. All Angel can say at the moment is it is to be a series on the largest TV outlet ever to air one of his shows. He’s previously starred in “Mindfreak” on A&E and “Believe” on Spike TV.

With four years left on a 10-year contract, Angel is not certain of his long-term future at Luxor. Those talks would not even begin in earnest for at least two years, but Angel knows his own capacity to perform his show is finite. “Believe” is a rough-and-tumble affair, with Angel running around the stage in sixth gear and being lifted into and out of contraptions. Everything is done bigger, faster and with the highest level of energy — his execution of Harry Houdini’s “Metamorphosis” is the swiftest on record, for example.

The athletic performances have come at a price, as Angel’s shoulder surgery proved. “Believe” was on hiatus for 2 1/2 months as he recovered from an injury he suffered while performing a stunt at Times Square in New York, during which he was suspended in a pair of straitjackets hundreds of feet above the street.

One can only perform such a feat so many times. “I’m 46 years old, and I can’t do this forever,” Angel allows. But he continues to put a healthy distance between his ever-expanding career and his 2008 opening at Luxor, which he concedes was “a rough start."

Angel also has even more company among large-scale magicians on the corner of the Strip and Tropicana Avenue, as Jan Rouven moves his “New Illusions” production into Tropicana Theater at the end of the month. That show joins current heavyweights Angel and David Copperfield, the superstar whose image is on MGM Grand and who practically owns that hotel’s Hollywood Theater.

“Success breeds success,” Angel says with a chuckle when asked about the changes in the neighborhood. “I’m blessed to be performing in one of the largest venues for magic, to be playing two shows per night for a high volume of people. I am really very proud of what we are able to accomplish at the Luxor, and it’s just been an amazing experience. The show continues to evolve and transform and grow.”

The art of magic is like any other form of entertainment, whether it is singing or playing a musical instrument or acting or even riding a unicycle across a high wire. It is an ever-evolving practice. In his impressive fiefdom, Angel has partnered with one of the great artistic companies in the world and surrounded himself with brilliant performers, on and off the stage.

And for his next trick, Criss Angel will attempt to replicate the international spirit and success of Cirque du Soleil. To achieve that would be more than just a grand illusion.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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