Criss Angel Believe: Is Las Vegas’ Bizarre Magician Right for Kids?

Lisa Fritscher August 28, 2011 No Comments

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Las Vegas Luxor

The Luxor is particularly impressive at night

When Dad and I were in Las Vegas this summer, seeing “Believe” was at the top of my must-do list. I’m a huge fan of Criss Angel’s Mindfreak TV show, and I knew I had to see him perform live. We actually had tickets to the original “Believe” opening in 2008, but production delays pushed back opening night. Then the entire trip fell through. So this was a chance to finally do what I had been waiting three years to do!

About “Believe”

Criss Angel Logo

Criss Angel's logo is a modified anarchy symbol

In 2005, the TV channel A&E started broadcasting a little show starring street magician Criss Angel. Aired at 10 p.m., Mindfreak was the first major television series to celebrate a new kind of magic–bizarre or geek magic. With long black hair, a brand logo resembling an anarchy symbol, and a style of dress that mixed gothic, punk and heavy metal, Criss Angel was about as far as you could get from the old top hat and tails of traditional magic. His act focused on close-up illusions, but every episode also featured a massive stunt such as being suspended from a helicopter by fish hooks or being burned alive on the street.

The show found its audience, and exploded in popularity. Soon the internet was abuzz with Loyals, official members of the Criss Angel fan club who were always ready and willing to show up anywhere that he might appear. During the first two seasons, the majority of Mindfreak episodes were filmed in and around Las Vegas’ Aladdin Hotel, now Planet Hollywood Las Vegas. By Season 3, the show moved permanently to the Luxor, an Egyptian-themed Vegas hotel where Criss made his home.

In 2006, Criss went into negotiations with Cirque du Soleil to create an epic live theatrical show. Housed in a custom-built 1533-seat theater at the Luxor, “Believe” was delayed several times before finally opening on Halloween 2008. The original show was a surrealistic Gothic fantasy that married the best of Cirque with the best of Criss Angel. A match made in heaven, right?

Not so much. In its early days, “Believe” received consistently negative reviews from fans and critics alike. Apparently, the problem was that the show was too dark and spooky for Cirque fans, and didn’t feature Criss prominently enough to satisfy his fans. Cirque was ready to tweak the show, but Criss Angel wanted more. Backed by Luxor executives, Criss successfully lobbied to take over creative control. The high-energy new version strips away most of the Cirque elements and the Gothic storyline, returning to Criss’ roots as a top-notch live performer.

Our Experience

Rice & Company Restaurant Las Vegas

Our before-theater dinner at Rice was fantastic!

Almost as soon as we set foot in Vegas, Dad and I were accosted by time share sales reps (see my article Timeshare Presentations – What to Expect). “Sign up for our tour and receive a free buffet.” “Sit through our presentation and we’ll give you gambling credits!” But at the Luxor, home of “Believe,” the offer was irresistible: $150 in dining vouchers and two tickets to “Believe” for only $50. Yes, please! Note that if you go this route, you must pay for the tickets in cash when you sign up for the presentation. At the end of the time share tour, you will receive ticket vouchers, which you must then turn in at the box office for actual tickets.

As of 2011, the show is dark on Sunday and Monday. Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays offer two show times: 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday nights, “Believe” is performed at 7 p.m. only. We chose the 9:30 p.m. Saturday performance.

We arrived at the Luxor around 7 p.m. Remember those dining vouchers we got? We decided to use them at Rice & Company, a hot new Asian restaurant that opened in July 2011 to rave reviews. We were seated without a reservation in approximately 15 minutes, and the food was excellent in every way. Portions are immense. We shared several dishes including Lobster Cantonese and a variety of sides, and our bill was $70 with tip. We pretty much finished the lobster, but we could have easily shared the sides with a third person. By the time dinner was over, we had roughly half an hour to wander the hotel before making our way to the theater for “Believe.”

The Show

Believe Criss Angel Shop

You can get Criss Angel merchandise at two different shops

We were told to arrive around 9 p.m. for seating. The show starts at 9:30, and late arrivals are held in the lobby until a designated time for performer safety. Promptly at 9:00, a massive line formed, seemingly out of nowhere. Since the show is designated seating rather than general admission, we opted not to stand in line. The doors opened around 9:15 and the line cleared quickly. We were at our seats by 9:20.

Of course, the time share tickets weren’t the best seats in the house. But the theater is surprisingly intimate. We were in Section 204, row PP, at the back of the balcony, but at the end of the row towards the center of the theater. When we tried to locate our seats, someone was already in them. It turns out that they actually had tickets for the next row forward. Since they were already settled, they gave us their seats.

Imagine our surprise when the usher, who had witnessed the entire exchange, approached us and the other couple a few minutes later. She had an entire row open near the front of the balcony! The unexpected upgrade was wonderful! Although we weren’t able to participate in the interactive portions of the show, which occur only on the main floor, we had an excellent overview of the entire performance.

“Believe” was nothing short of fantastic! The new incarnation of the show was basically a 90-minute, live-action version of Mindfreak. Criss performed some of his best-known illusions as well as some newer ones designed specifically for “Believe.” A few Cirque performers provided some comic relief, and the much-loved rabbit sequences of the old show are still there, but the newly retooled “Believe” was definitely a vehicle for Criss to bring his live act to new legions of fans. As one of the most successful street magicians in history, is it any wonder that he is able to carry a live show?

Many of Criss’ illusions are based on ancient principles of magic, such as sawing a woman in half or disappearing only to reappear in a new location. It’s the way he presents his illusions that make the show so cutting-edge. Gone are the curtains, cabinets and other tools of the trade. Criss’ demonstrations are performed in full view of the audience, often with a randomly selected audience member on stage to confirm that everything is completely fair.

The 90 minutes flew by, and I was genuinely surprised when we reached the end of the show. A consummate showman, Criss keeps the show flowing smoothly no matter what audience volunteers or the technical risks inherent in live performance might throw his way. As a performer myself, with 30 years’ experience in live theater, I was truly impressed.

Tips for Parents

Criss Angel Believe Line

The theater line backed up into the casino, but moved fairly quickly

Due to the nature of the show, children under age 5 are not permitted to attend. Parents of slightly older children, though, may want to add this one to your Las Vegas schedule. There are a few obscenities and a couple of adult humor moments sprinkled throughout the performance, but nothing worse than you would expect on television. Criss Angel is well-known for his charity work with children, and it is readily apparent that he intends the show to be accessible to his youngest fans as well as those a bit older. The show strikes the perfect and often unattainable balance between family friendliness and enough edginess to excite teens and young adults. A rock soundtrack, fantastic pacing and high-energy stunts are guaranteed to keep everyone on the edge of their seats.

The theater seating is intentionally designed to give every seat a great view. If your kids are small, ask a theater usher for assistance. We saw ushers distributing comfortable oversized cushions to children around us, raising them up to adult height and ensuring that they could comfortably see.

Although the show is participative, young children are not selected. Criss generally asks for volunteers aged 18 or above, though one absolutely hilarious sequence is staged with a 15-16 year old boy. If you have a teen who would like to participate, spring for seats on the main floor.

Before we arrived, whenever we told people that we write for a children’s travel website and would be covering Las Vegas, we were repeatedly warned not to take kids out on the Strip on a Saturday night. Supposedly the crowds are wild, everyone’s drunk, and it is not an appropriate place for children.

We did not, however, find this to be the case. Yes, the sidewalks are crowded, but no more so than they are at Walt Disney World or any other major tourist attraction. Yes, some people are drinking, but no more so than anywhere else. We found plenty of suburban families with kids of all ages, just out to have some innocent fun. If you are concerned, though, arrive early at the Luxor and plan to spend the entire evening there, or just see the 7 p.m. show on a different night. Mid-week, Las Vegas is significantly less crowded and prices on everything from hotels to buffets are lower.

No cameras or other recording devices are allowed in the theater. Cell phones are permitted, but must be turned off. Using a cell phone or recording device is grounds for immediate ejection from the theater. All bags are searched and the entrance doorways have built-in metal detectors, though we were able to walk through with our turned-off cell phones in our pockets.

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avatarAbout the Author:

Lisa is a full-time travel writer. She lives in an RV with her disabled father and writes about their experiences. Although she has no children of her own, Lisa loves being an Aunt to her own relatives and the children of all her friends. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Travel Confessions.

Tags: Reviews, Sharing Experiences

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