Before I begin, let me just say that I really have nothing against Criss Angel, and happen to love a lot of the Cirque shows we have here in Las Vegas. I’ve been to LOVE three times already. I’ve enjoyed the bits of Criss’ show that I’ve caught on TV. I went into this with a neutral attitude.
Now that we’re done with that…
One of the fun things about living in Las Vegas is the ability to go to see previews of shows before they’re “ready” for the general public. I’d assume they use this as a metric to see how the show is thought of before it goes “live” and give them a chance to tweak things that aren’t working. Really it’s a show in beta — things may change a bit, but it’s roughly there, and they’re working out the finer points (i.e. timing and such).
So this past Saturday, my wife and I went to see the preview of “Criss Angel – Believe” at the Luxor.
Short and sweet: I think this show is beyond saving. I’d recommend you skip it.
Read on for the longer version (SPOILERS)…
Unlike other Cirque shows (except LOVE), there’s no story to this show. Or rather, someone thinks there’s a story to this show, but there really isn’t one that the audience can detect, let alone follow. It’s disjointed and confusing. The banter with the audience doesn’t help pull you in to a Cirque “experience”, but rather makes the show come off like this is a “get-the-crowd-participating” 2nd rate magic show that happens to have some Cirque performers in it.
Let’s start from the beginning.
When you enter, you have to place all your cameras and cell phones in bags and “check” them before you go through a metal detector, just to make sure you don’t take a photo of anything in the show, or more realistically, call your friends to bust you out of it. It doesn’t help that the area you drop your phones in sits in a not-so-large hallway that everyone exits in, which makes it a pain to get through the crowd on the way out, especially if you have to get your stuff.
From the beginning, I’m assuming the show is supposed to be about Criss “caught between life and death” when a trick in the very beginning goes wrong. The timing of the sounds / effects was way off on our show, but once the timing is nailed it should feel pretty good when it happens.
So ok, Criss is in limbo, so this show is about what happens when he’s there, right? Well, kinda. I think. We’re never really given an antagonist, and Criss isn’t in every part, so we don’t really have a protagonist either. Also, after a bit into the show he starts talking to the audience directly. Wait, is he “alive” or still in limbo at this point? If he is, why is he talking to us? Isn’t this his journey? We aren’t in limbo with him. And if he’s “alive” again, why are we having all these weird dream sequences on the screen? It makes no sense.
So after the setup, we get a number of acts that introduce a “good” and “evil” woman that (again assuming) are vying for Criss’ soul. For his “journeys”, he’s torn apart by rabbits, reassembled, does a you-got-served dance-off against some mole people (no, really), gets married (huh?!) for “the second time this day” (HUH?!?!), fights some giant monster they re-assemble, switches places a few times with spirits / empty chairs, and has a few magic sequences from his show thrown in between.
Oh, and there’s a tap-dancing rabbit head. To quote my wife: “The only thing I’m going to remember about this show in a week’s time is the tap-dancing rabbit head.” I feel the same, and I have a very good memory.
Towards the end Criss starts talking to the audience again, trying to sum up the experience and saying “you just have to believe”. He then lip-synchs the “mindfreak” song, with all the Cirque dancers rockin’ out behind him. I think this sequence is supposed to get the audience pumped and out of their seats for a rockin’ finale. By that point, most of the people that were up and standing weren’t doing so because they were pumped… it was because they were leaving the theater. Quickly.
I was really surprised that a giant lighted PEPSI logo didn’t come swinging down at the end, with a “SPONSORED BY PEPSI, YEAHHHH!” message blaring over the speakers, right before the KOOL-AID MAN comes crashing through the Pepsi logo and starts rockin’ a duet of Mindfreak with Criss. Now that I think about it, that would have at least made me laugh. This is the most commercial of any Cirque show I’ve ever seen. TBH, I don’t care about Mindfreak, that’s not why I was there. I was there for a cool Cirque / Criss magic themed show. I didn’t get what I thought I’d get. Maybe that’s my fault.
Since I don’t want to just complain, let me suggest how to fix the show.
- Get rid of any and all Mindfreak references. Just drop it. Let the show stand (or fail) on its own.
- Tell a story. Ok, Criss is between life and death. Make the entire show about the trials and tribulations of limbo.
- The rabbit sequence is interesting, but has no setup. Having a “lord” rabbit proclaim it’s releasing its “subjects” on Criss because of past atrocities against the rabbits is my initial 3-second thought. Then the tearing him to pieces makes some sense.
- Make the antagonist kidnap / subdue/ kill the “good” woman early on, and Criss has to find and confront the evil one in order to escape limbo and return to the real world. Or she’s his only way back, or just something that can create a narrative structure for the show.
- And of course, only through magic can the dark spirits be vanquished and Criss can escape limbo and return to the “real” world at the end of the show.
- Don’t talk to the audience once the show starts and the tesla bit is done. Just let Criss interact with the characters in the limbo-land rather than acknowledge the audience. Only once he’s back and popping back up from the bandages near the end (which needs to happen, btw) should he act like he’s really standing on a stage and the audience is right there.
- The clown “possee” that Criss has backing him up needs work. It’s too much comic relief in unfunny ways. And lose the arm being chopped off. Seriously, why was that even in there?
Of course, this is so much to change, you’d really have to start over, and that’s the problem. Maybe someone on staff can come up with a great way to tie it all together and give it come cohesion. I was expecting a Tim Burton meets Terry Gilliam twisted “Alice in wonderland” bend to the show, or even a “Wizard of Oz” type story structure, with Criss fighting back from limbo to be with the woman he loves.
What I got, I don’t think deserves the Cirque marquee, and I certainly think Criss could do better.
At one point in the show, the giant video screen is showing some bad CG desert images and it starts going underground, dig-dug style, going down, down, down into the earth. Criss, standing and watching the screen says to the audience “Uh oh, where are we going now?”
My immediate thought: “That’s a really good question…on more than one level.”
Note: Yes, there were technical glitches, timing issues, the ability to see actors falling through the trap doors, etc. I consider all of that polish issues that will be resolved by the end of the beta / preview period. That didn’t color my review since I knew the show would be rough. However, even with those issues being perfected, the show simply has some serious structure / narrative flaws that I don’t think they’ll be able to correct within a month.No comments