Broadway Review: CRISS ANGEL Brought Magic (And Freak) Back To Broadway

It was the early 2000s, yours truly was in college still figuring out my place in this world but knowing that rock and metal along with the unknown was where my future was that I first heard of Criss Angel. An illusionist who was doing things like no one else, right in front of random people’s eyes in the streets of Manhattan thus giving birth to what we all know as MindFreak because he did things that made your mind do just that. Over the years I watched the TV specials and became a regular viewer of Criss Angel MindFreak on A&E and then Criss Angel BeLIEve later on Spike TV with the hopes of getting to one day see him live. That finally happened as Criss Angel returned to his home to perform “Criss Angel Raw – The Mindfreak Unplugged” on Broadway.

The whole idea of “Criss Angel Raw – The Mindfreak Unplugged” is that Criss got to take everything back to where his dream began, especially by having this limited run show housed at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater which once housed one of his inspirations of illusions Doug Henning and just two blocks away from where Criss first performed MindFreak under the WWE restaurant (now the Hard Rock Cafe Times Square). But like you’d expect the first demonstration from Criss was full on stage show. Intense music, costumes, and with the flair only he brings to it. He proceeded to swallow five razor blades one by one and then a piece of string. But before pulling them out he performed a self endoscopy to show the items in his stomach before pulling them from his mouth one by one tied together by the string.

After the applause started to slow Criss, now removing his elaborate costume and makeup (and rinsing blood out of his mouth), explained that this show was to take it all back to where it started. The basic demonstrations that first blew minds that helped to make him the world renown name he is today.

The industrial metal and extreme stage show was left to the opening number and Vegas as he proceeded with a demonstration that one of his idols, Doug Henning, did that is always mind blowing. After selecting a gentleman from the crowd to guard a double locked container he tossed a wristband into the crowd to gather random information – a persons name, a color, and a number. Then the locked container was opened and proven untampered with by the selected gentleman to reveal a piece of paper which Criss had previously written the name, color, and number he was just given. Let’s face it rockers, some demonstrations never grow old.

Criss also did something very few in his industry do, brought in other performers to share their abilities. Stefan, a French slight of hand performer, stunned the audience by literally pulling cards out of the air. Card manipulation is by far the toughest to perform in an intimate setting but despite a few flaws that I caught from my 6th row seat (extra cards slipping out and falling to the floor) he wowed the crowd.

Also along for this limited run with Criss was comedic magician Mike Hammer. His ability to ad-lib on the fly brings really shines alongside his art. One of his demonstrations had his hands tied to be hidden inside a circular curtain in order to take a handkerchief out of the inside jacket pocket he placed on a woman selected from the audience. The first attempt has him reappear with a bra around his neck and while to woman quickly stated “it’s not my color” he wasn’t stunned but quickly quipped “must be from your home selection” garnering laughs that were then met by bigger laughs and applause as the second attempt had Mike Hammer reappear with the handkerchief in his mouth, jacket on, pants down, and his hands still tied behind him.

Criss continued with his demonstrations that first blew minds and brought some fears to the stage for four women who definitely got more than their admissions worth of entertainment. After working with one of the four women to have her focus on her fear he had her type it onto a tablet to Google video of that fear. “Spiders” was what she typed. Criss the selected a video of a tarantula to show the audience along with the four women which lead to that tarantula going from the tablet screen to the table, causing the four women to scatter quickly.

A few more classic demonstrations were shared that I’ll keep to myself and those who saw the show because the old theater saying is “leave them wanting more” but I’ll share just one more thing.

To close the show Criss Angel went right for what I had hoped to see, the demonstration that he’s known for. Complete levitation! Criss walked down a ladder, facing the floor horizontally, like he was walking through Times Square and then proceeded to levitate under the ladder. The ladder was removed to allow him to levitate around the stage and then into a see through human sized hamster wheel and back out. Then one of his assistants from throughout the show joins him onstage as he raises both himself and her off the ground as the curtain closed.

Criss Angel brought all the magic and more back to Broadway like only he can. If you missed it then get yourself to Las Vegas and experience it for yourself and you too will see why he is the MindFreak.

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