Since the show's debut this past fall, I've heard from numerous dissatisfied spectators who vented their rage here at Magic.About.com (please click here). With few exceptions, most were not only disappointed, but despised the show. I think that few of those who submitted negative comments were Criss Angel-critics, they were genuinely let down by the show, which was then in previews.
As far as I know, this is the first review to be published since the show came back from a few weeks of retooling. For the record, I did not see the previous version of "Believe" prior to this recent hiatus.
Breaking the Magic Mold
When one attempts to break the mold - taking an entertainment art form such as magic into new directions - it's a definite risk. Angel and Cirque have merged magic and illusions into the context of an ongoing story.
It's a bold and creative move that I respect but the end results are also somewhat esoteric. In my opinion, this is not the type of production that will make the masses happy after they have forked over money to see it.
The first half of the show plays as a live magic stage show. Angel displays lots of charisma and even jokes with the audience. He's likeable and shows more personality here than he does in a typical MindFreak episode. With this more outgoing persona, he could easily carry a traditional magic show that presents a series of effects in the tried and true vaudeville style.
Angel then invites the audience to "journey into his twisted mind." It's an extended and confusing dream sequence that features an evil witch and dancing bunnies and ravens. Amid the dancing, huge props and projected video, Angel performs his illusions.
The second half, actually it's the majority of the show, is dark and dreary. I like the theme and accompanying visuals, but there are few light moments and comedy to break it up. (I admit that I like the vaudeville way of mixing things up to maintain interest.) I think overall that the production takes itself too seriously.
Muted Magic Response
The show features some stunning magic but the reactions from the audience are strangely reserved. In fact, a break dance segment receives more enthusiastic response than many of the illusions.
I have a hypothesis as to what is happening. First of all, none of the illusions are "proven" in typical magic fashion (the box is empty, there's nothing under here, etc...). The illusions simply occur during the course of the show. Would I want tricks "proven" in this production? Probably not. But this leads to my next observation.
And because illusions just happen, I think that as audiences watch, they accept that what they are seeing are special effects and it's as if they are watching a movie such as "The Matrix" where supernatural feats simply occur. This was an observation I also made with the Disney Live! Mickeyís Magic Show (please click here to read my review).
The show features some innovative magic. Angel is sawed in half as he did in his television show; he performs his open metamorphosis (with more shrouding to accommodate the staging) and performs his version of a woman passing through his body without any cover.
There is also creative use of a large video projection screen. I think that one magic technique may have been used a little too often as well as overplayed. Lay people were probably catching on.
The show has high production values. The sets are lavish, the costumes are stunning and the dancing is mesmerizing and well choreographed. Seemingly, no cost was spared
I appreciate and respect the artistic vision and creativity that went into this production. On the other hand, I can't recommend it to those who simply want to see a fun and entertaining magic show.
With CRISS ANGEL Believe, you have to come in with an open mind. And that's probably asking too much when youíre doling out $65 or more for the experience.