The grand opening performance of a show on the Strip is typically saturated in nervous anticipation, heightening excitement for everyone in the showroom on both sides of the stage. That was true for Criss Angel’s big night at Planet Hollywood on January 19, but there was another feeling permeating the mezzanine-level theater: a feeling of victory.
In front of an only-in-Vegas, Saturday-night crowd of celebrities including Wayne Newton, Flavor Flav, Gary Oldman and Lance Burton, Angel rolled out all the spectacular illusions that made the previous version of Mindfreak a runaway hit during the last three years of a decade-long run at Luxor. They were amped up by advanced audio and video technologies that haven’t been used before in a Las Vegas show. When the cyberpunk soundtrack kicks in to start the show, you can feel the bass in your chest. When a new scene unfolds onstage, the visual setting stretches to the back of the room, thanks to LED strips on the ceiling and 4K projection on the walls.
The stage is smaller than the one at Luxor, but every aspect of the show is bigger here. The new Mindfreak cast is slightly larger and on Saturday night included French master card manipulator Stefan Vanel. There are music and video contributions from Korn’s Jonathan Davis, Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider and Angel’s partner Shaunyl Benson, who gave birth to the couple’s second child three days later on January 22. At the end of the show, while Angel took time out to thank his partners and crew for assembling the show in less than two months, executives from Caesars Entertainment and Base Entertainment joined him onstage with a $10,000 check for the Johnny Crisstopher Children’s Charitable Foundation, inspired by Angel’s 4-year-old son, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2015 and is now in remission. Johnny Crisstopher received what should be his last chemotherapy treatment a couple months ago, and it doesn’t get more victorious than that.
Don’t expect Angel to rest on his laurels. When his five-year Mindfreak residency returns on February 6, it wouldn’t be surprising to catch him making small adjustments to the show or introducing entirely new illusions and segments. He’s still getting used to his new venue and constantly tinkering with the technology that fuels the latest version of his vision. It all goes back to something he said during an exclusive December tour of the Criss Angel Theater at Planet Hollywood.
“Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world, but in some ways it has become complacent, because no one is pushing the envelope. No one is making people reach down deep inside and be the best they can be. If you’re successful doing what you’ve done for 20 or 25 years, why would you change? But life is death without change. I want to hopefully be the show that initiates real change and real development, because the ultimate winner in that is the public. They deserve the best.”
CRISS ANGEL: MINDFREAK Resumes February 6. Wednesday-Sunday, 7 p.m., $69-$139. Criss Angel Theater at Planet Hollywood, 702-777-2782.