Call it Wrestlemagica...
Though Off-Broadway's Criss Angel MINDFREAK, which opened back on Dec. 13, 2001, never had an official closing date, it was assumed the show would have closed just after the holidays had it not done well. Instead, however, the upclose and personal magic show has done well enough to extend its run for a full year, to January 2003, according to a production spokesperson at The Publicity office.
The new World Underground Theatre at WWF New York began its premiere performance, Criss Angel MINDFREAK, Nov. 20. Angel's magic show, staged in the new 150-seat, theater in the round, uses otherworldly creatures to aid him "as he discards the conventional tools of his trade and redefines centuries of tradition," according to a press statement. The intimate space allows the illusions to be up close and personal.
Angel has studied the art of music and illusion for years in addition to his studies of martial arts, dance and pyrotechnics. Recently named Magician of the Year by the International Magician's Society, Angel created and directed "MINDFREAK" and wrote the original score along with Klayton [sic]. He is backed up by an award-winning team of tech experts, including design by John Farrell (Radio City's Christmas Spectaculars), movement consultation by choreographer Debra Brown (Cirque du Soleil, Madonna's Drowned World Tour 2001), creature design and construction by Steve Johnson ("Men in Black," "Species") and lighting by seven-time Tony Award winners Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer.
Angel said in a statement, "I want the audience to connect emotionally to each moment and for the lines of reality and illusion to be blurred. I believe that's what keeps people on the edge of their seats." Criss Angel MINDFREAK plays at the World Underground Theatre at WWF New York (Broadway and 43rd Street). The WWF complex is actually on the site of the torn-down Paramount Theatre, once a 3,000-seat Broadway house. VP and general manager Kenton Jenkins told Time Out New York (Nov. 22, 2001) the hope is for the WWF to become a "Disney esque" producing entity. "It's family entertainment and it's value for your money." Kenton hasn't ruled out stand-up comedy and Rocky Horror type musicals as part of the WWF mix.
As for Criss Angel, he apparently eschews "cheesy" old-fashioned magic, telling Time Out-New York, "David Copperfield was yesterday, and I think someone has to represent what's happening tomorrow." Among the offerings are a levitation, a swallowed string of razor blades, a needle through the arm (complete with blood — don't look if you're squeamish!), card tricks, and a battle between Angel and a giant linebacker-style robot — all done in a relatively small, cabaret-style setting.
For tickets ($15-$55) and information on Criss Angel MINDFREAK at WWF New York, Broadway at 43rd Street, call Ticketmaster at (212) 307 4100.
— by David Lefkowitz and Steve Luber