On the heels of Part 1 of 2 of our Q+A with Luxor headliner illusionist Criss Angel about his new spectacular “Mindfreak Live!,” Cirque du Soleil told us Thursday that “Mindfreak Live!” previews will begin May 25 (rescheduled from Wednesday), and the official premiere will be June 30.
Meantime, the website for “Mindfreak Live!” has tickets on sale May 21. Here is Part 2 of 2 of our Q+A:
You’ve been linked with Chloe Crawford, who left “Fantasy” at the Luxor to be in the show. How much magic is she performing?
Chloe is a feature in the show, and I think that people are going to see her in a very different light. Chloe is in the best shape of her life, she trains like a maniac, she moves unbelievably, and she’s going to perform magic in the show.
She’s basically my right hand when it comes to performing illusions like the metamorphosis, which is a key illusion that I’ve been doing since I was 14. We’ll be doing the switch in world-record time. She’s doing a lot of illusions with me, and she’s also going to do some on her own.
Are there any Cirque elements?
Yes, some, but done in a very different way. One of the things I wanted was to take the magic and make that the apparatus that they would use to do their physical movement. They utilize my apparatus in order to showcase their talent. We don’t have to bring a trapeze in here to showcase that we have a trapeze act.
We utilize the magic as an example to have them utilize that apparatus, which also showcases what they do, so it really integrates well with the illusions. I have a guy who is unbelievable: It’s martial arts meets breakdancing meets acrobatics. This guy does incredible freestyling stuff. It will blow people’s minds.
We have an incredible breakdancer, we have really incredibly talented people: gymnasts, dancers, specialty acts all lending their talent to the illusion, to the presentation, in a way that fits seamlessly.
Who is directing — you or Cirque?
Cirque has given me complete creative license. That means creating, that means directing, that means going through the cast, going through the costuming, the pyrotechnics. Every creative element that’s on that stage, it’s Criss Angel. It’s my DNA there. I am an executive producer of the show, which as you know I wasn’t on “Believe.”
Let’s go back to let’s use the word gamble. The first gamble was Cirque producing rabbits dancing on the stage in “Believe.” It didn’t work. Everybody says it didn’t work. Even you said it didn’t work.
It would have worked if I wasn’t in the show. It was a good show. But people came with expectations of seeing “Mindfreak,” but they got instead Criss Angel playing somebody else from a Broadway show. For some reason, “Believe” didn’t want to bank on all of the television that I had under my belt.
They wanted to try to do something different, so I went along with the ride. I agree it wasn’t the right decision. But the challenge was to refocus it, and by 2010 we had countless reviews saying that it was the best show in Las Vegas. Newsweek calculated we produced $150 million in one year. We beat every other magic show in town and did it by leaps and bounds.
So this wasn’t a decision to change the show because we had to change the show. This was a decision because the world of entertainment in Las Vegas has completely transformed. You see how many shows are closing, you see how many shows are struggling. There are shows in Las Vegas that are giving free tickets away, and the only thing you have to pay is the box office fee.
I am somebody who loves to create. I created a touring “Mindfreak Live!” We sold out every single show we did throughout the country. We were doing one-nighters.
It was an unbelievable opportunity for me to be able to go out and do that and create what I wanted to create on my own without answering to anyone. Then I created “The Supernaturalists,” another huge smash that broke attendance records — 232 million impressions the first weekend.
Cirque executives came with Nik Rytterstrom, who runs the Luxor and saw the show when I wasn’t even there. They were blown away. I have the finest LED walls, the finest lighting boards in the world. They saw what I was able to bring to the stage and how the audience reacted.
I can’t speak for them. I think that I have 2 years and 5 months left on my contract. I think everybody sees how difficult it is to have a winning show in Las Vegas that can attract people to their hotel as a destination. Especially when you’re at one end of the Strip.
When you have something so successful, you want to try to keep that. So they made me an offer that I could not refuse. They said you have the creative license, do what you’re going to do. We’ll support you; we’ll be behind you.
I’ve never in my time with Cirque de Soleil had a better relationship. Cirque has been absolutely amazing, supportive and allowed me to really bring my vision to life in a way that I could not do on my own because of this incredible theater, because of their incredible knowledge.
And their talent pool?
Yeah, it’s incredible. So, for me as an artist who wants to remain numero uno, the most relevant magician in the world, I want to see what I am capable of because I know I’m capable of doing more things that are way beyond anything that I’ve ever done.
Besides the money, which doesn’t really matter to me, it was more about the opportunity as an artist to show people what I am truly capable of and raise the bar for myself, push my own envelope, see what’s the best that could come out of me creatively, artistically.
In turn, I think it will push a whole art form and show that magic doesn’t have to be what we think it is and what we have seen it be — it can be so much more. I think this show will be the nexus for future magicians to see what is possible and how you don’t think like what we’ve seen in Las Vegas before.
Give me an example of an illusion that shows us that this is completely different than what you’ve done before, what magic has done before?
There are many, many examples of the illusions that we’re presenting. I think that the most important aspect of this show, more than the illusions, is the emotional connection that people will have during the show because the power that that has, when you move somebody on a visceral level, and they shed one tear because of something they’re watching, that’s a profound effect.
It will make people, whether they shed a tear or not, it will put them in a space that magic has never done. The reason that I can do it is this is real life.
You escaped the answer because you obviously want to keep it secret until opening night. So let me ask it differently. There are seven magic tricks, seven principals of magic. Have you discovered more?
I found that magic is not about a trick, about an enigma. Magic can be so much more without even performing a trick. One of my signature pieces, and what I get requested more than anything, is to levitate.
People will be stunned by the levitation in this show. I’m going to levitate in ways that no magician, no human being, has ever levitated on a live stage, ever, period. No blue lame curtains blowing. This will be just completely in the open in normal lighting, no theatrical lighting, no curtains, nothing.
It’s right there as if you saw me on the street and see me in a real environment. Not setup, not slick, but seeing me do things that have never been done, being able to fly up, fly sideways, flip, barrel rolls, and do it literally, some of the levitations just 5 feet away from the audience.
Five feet away? So you’re almost in the audience?
Yep. I’m as close as you can get to the audience and allow it to be done due to insurance restrictions. That’s just one part of it.
Peter Pan comes to life?
This is way beyond Peter Pan. Not only do I levitate, not only do I fly, this is “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” I’m flipping around, I’m doing barrel rolls. There’s a brand new manipulation act with birds that takes place in a 200-year-old cathedral. The dome is cracked, so you can see sunlight coming in while a little snow falls and birds fly into the cathedral.
It’s a whole routine with birds flying over the audience in different forms before coming back to life. We send five pigeons to fly over the audience’s heads, which transforms into a feather turning into a snowstorm, then 110 birds flying through the snowstorm.
There’s fire floating in my hands, floating around my body that transforms into another bird. Manipulation has been around forever with magic. It’s a beautiful form of art, but we’re seeing it in a very poetic way.
Utilizing technology in a way that we haven’t seen, and it really takes the audience from seeing what we’ve seen before as tricks. It’s almost like becoming emotionally engaged to what you’re seeing because it makes you feel like you can go out and conquer the world.
Is it safe to say that there is no other magician who can do this?
No question about it. There’s no one who can do this show. No one because there’s only one Criss Angel. I’m really happy to be in my skin, and I’ve had a lifetime and a dedication to my craft like no other. I live, eat and sleep this in a way that people who know me who are magicians, they think that I’m possessed.
With all of the trials and tribulations from “Believe,” and all of the different things over 18 years it took me to become an overnight success, all of that led to this moment. This is my time.
I believe it’s my time because I believe that this is going to be the culmination of my entire career put forth on this stage in a way that would never be possible unless somebody went through my life experience and had the facility, the means, the team, Cirque du Soleil, the theater, the brain, the creativity, to be able to do this.
I don’t say this because, and I know it’s going to come off very conceited, but I say this because I work, work and continue to work my ass off. What you put in is what you get out. The harder something is to accomplish, the sweeter the reward. This is a long time in the making for me.
This is your whole life — your existence?
Yeah, this is it, this is it, this is it. I’m willing to put it all out there on the line. I could have just sat there and done “Believe” and collected the incredible money that I was making.
I could have just kept my feet in the pool by day, had a margarita, hung out with friends and come here at 6:30 p.m. and get ready for the show, do the show, go home. But that’s not me. Cirque knew that wasn’t me.
Cirque knew that I was capable of more. Cirque saw what I did, and I think they see the future in the Criss Angel brand not only here at the Luxor, but also abroad. We’re already talking about getting involved with many other shows, not just “Mindfreak Live!” at the Luxor.