In the world of modern magic, there’s one uncontested king: Criss Angel.
During his nearly 20 years on the magic scene, Angel has spent 24 hours chained up in a water torture chamber, cut himself in half, walked on water, levitated between two buildings and got run over by a steamroller while laying on shards of glass. Amazingly, Angel, like his idol Harry Houdini before him, has upped the ante year after year, managing to shock audiences that have seen him do the impossible time and time again.
Angel’s most popular ventures have been his A&E show “Criss Angel Mindfreak” and his live Las Vegas show of the same name. Now, he brings an “unplugged” version of that show to Caesars Atlantic City 9 p.m. Friday, May 4. Before his A.C. performance, we spoke to Angel about his “sexy” show, being a student of human nature and making his audiences’ worst fears come to life.
At the Shore: You’ve been touring with this “raw” and “unplugged” show. What makes it unplugged as opposed to other tours you’ve done?
Criss Angel: Well, it’s kind of like a stripped-down version of what I’ve done on television for over 100 episodes. It’s in-your-face, close-up magic, borrowing objects from spectators and creating a mirage.
ATS: Were you worried at all to strip things down, or does that take some of the pressure off?
CA: It actually adds more pressure. It relies on me creating the impossible and blowing people’s minds in an intimate setting. It’s kind of like the man behind the mask and people getting to know me. I think it’s a very engaging, interactive show.
ATS: When it comes to magicians, a lot of people don’t take the time to get to know the “man behind the mask.” Is it nice to get the chance to connect with fans with this show?
CA: Yeah, that’s really what it is. This show really is an emotional roller coaster ride. It combines everything from crazy escapes and illusions to close-up magic. It makes people’s fears come alive. It’s sexy, it’s scary, it’s mind blowing. There’s something for the whole family. It gives me the opportunity to do something quite different than the illusions people see me do on television.
ATS: How do you keep coming up with new material that will wow audiences?
CA: As I fan of magic, I try to create what I want to see as a fan. I’m always pushing myself. I have a 60,000 square-foot workshop and a team that brings my visions to life. We experiment and create, and that’s why people have come to trust the Criss Angel brand. They’re going to see things that are original and revolutionary. That’s why I’ve been here for so many years.
ATS: What’s your favorite trick you’ve ever performed?
CA: They’re all my children, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. In this show that I’m doing, my favorite is one that I’m doing for the first time. It’s a demonstration, and the audience is really awestruck when they see it because they can’t comprehend how it just happened. I pull from the audience, and people’s fears come to life, whether that’s in purses or hats. It freaks people out, from tarantulas to snakes to scorpions to clowns — whatever they might have a fear of. And it’s totally random. In a split second they’re picked.
ATS: Do you practice? Is being a magician of your caliber like being a musician, where you have to keep honing your craft?
CA: I’m a student of human nature. I’m always practicing, whether that’s on stage or just in a meeting. I have to be a student of that behavior so I can capitalize on it when I’m performing.
ATS: Do you think towns like Las Vegas and Atlantic City respond differently to your show as opposed to less entertainment-driven towns?
CA: No, actually I was just in the Mid-West playing 3,000 to 5,000 seat theaters. I think magic, when done properly, appeals to everyone. Whether I’m in Vegas performing for people ages 8 to 80 or on the road, there’s excitement. Touring is great because it gives people who have never had the opportunity to get on a plane and come to Vegas get to see my show live.
ATS: How does technology play into your shows? How do you balance modern effects and good ol’ fashion magic?
CA: Anything I do on television I have to produce live. Where technology plays into my show, it’s to support the emotion I want to convey to the audience. When you have that emotion, that’s the purest form of magic. The magic of emotion.