By John Katsilometes
Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 | 7:45 p.m.
After undergoing major shoulder surgery Jan. 9, Criss Angel was told to take it easy for six months.
But “six months” in Angel’s lexicon means “three weeks.” He’s back onstage as the host of “Magic Jam” at the Luxor, which debuted Feb. 4, less than a month after surgery.
Famous internationally for his high-risk illusions, Angel was injured in a stunt at Times Square (and really, who among us hasn’t been?) where he was suspended in a pair of straitjackets several hundred feet before a rapt crowd.
Angel had already suffered from some minor damage to his right shoulder, and hanging above Times Square by a hoist only exacerbated that injury. He severed muscles and tendons in his right rotator cuff, and in January he underwent an invasive surgery most common among injured major league pitchers.
Happily, a clip of this surgery is played during “Magic Jam,” which is not only effectively suspenseful entertainment but invaluable for reporting purposes.
Angel is spending 45 minutes onstage in “Magic Jam,” which is to be a placeholder show until he returns full force in “Believe” by the end of April. But the theater requires animation in the interim, so Angel continues to work, work, work.
In “Magic Jam,” the hotel headliner is joined by such performing friends as longtime Flamingo afternoon comic magician Nathan Burton, the unnervingly penetrating mentalist Banacheck, the dependably hilarious Russ Merlin of “V — The Ultimate Variety Show” at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, and 22-year-old Krystyn Lambert (a fixture on Angel’s Spike TV show, also titled “Believe”). Also in the solid lineup of performers are manipulators Jason Byrne and Tony Clark and close-up artist Armando Vera. At the front, joining Angel, is a personal favorite: Matteo “Maestro” Bellavista, also a highlight in “Believe.”
This show was constructed in a mad dash and actually does require some for-real speeding around town. Merlin hustles over after his appearances in “V,” something the ever-hustling Burton knows all about, as he also is pulling double duty. Angel is glad to have permission from producer David Saxe to use both performers in a competing venue.
Given all the moving parts, human and otherwise, the show is paced crisply and balanced effectively between the comic stylings of Merlin and Maestro and the daring routines of Krystyn (who performs Angel’s single-straitjacket routine over the audience) and Angel’s own sawing-a-woman-in-half routine, using a contraption about the size of a sausage factory.
Last Saturday night, when I met up with Angel after the show, he was exhausted. He wore a leather sling over his right arm and shoulder and was obviously not feeling well. When I suggested that he take some time off, he laughed and said, “Me? Never.” And that work ethic, kids, is how you become a star on the Strip.