REVIEW: Cirque du Soleil (Zumanity & O), Penn & Teller, and Criss Angel (Las Vegas, NV – 1/17-21/11)
I was in Las Vegas last week for a conference/convention… no, not the AVN/Adult Entertainment Expo – that was just “serendipity“… outside of seeing the random porn star walking around a hotel lobby (like Dana DeArmond, Belladonna, and some others that “a friend” told me about…), I didn’t take in that frivolity.
Some excellent Las Vegas shows were taken in, though… and here is my mega, 4-part review…
First up was the Cirque du Soleil show BeLIEVE from Criss Angel on Tuesday night (1/17). I’ll say it now, that I’ve been a fan of Criss Angel before most of you had even heard of him (long before the TV show, long before “the Loyal” were dreamed up). I’m not trying to gain “street cred,” but merely setting up a background for my ultimate opinion on the show…
I got into Criss Angel via his first album, Angel Dust’s 1998 debut Musical Conjurings from the World of Illusion – which was a collaboration between Criss Angel (on vocals) and hard-industrial artist Circle of Dust (music). The album was later re-branded as a Criss Angel release called System 1 (nixing the Angel Dust moniker). Klayton (Scott Albert aka Circle of Dust aka Celldweller) was still involved in the System 2 & 3 in the trilogy (and even in Criss’ Mindfreak Broadway show and the A&E Mindfreak TV series), but it definitely became more of a Criss Angel project, and less of a Circle of Dust/Celldweller project. That’s all fine and good. It became what Criss was… a loud, audacious rocker magician. There’s a place for everything in this world of entertainment.
I was curious when I heard a few years ago that he was pairing with Circue du Soleil. I love Cirque shows; so I thought it’d be a given show to see. Well, Cirque still has its name associated with the BeLIEve show, but apparently toned down the acrobatic/dance/surreal aspects of the show, as it was distracting from the magic side. What was left was more resembling the A&E Mindfreak show set on a stage… it wasn’t very Cirque-y anymore, but that was probably a-OK with me.
My thoughts… the “clowns” were only “meh.” The set design was gorgeous. Some of my favorite tricks were the metamorphosis, dove tricks, and swallowing razor blades and a string only to pull them out on the string (HOW!?). The Celldweller score was great, the pyro was flashy/bodacious. It does come off as a bit cheesy/corny/”metal,” but that’s part of what Criss Angel’s always been; so that wasn’t a shock. One thing I will say, though, on this night’s performance, it did seem like there were too many similar tricks (teleportation/metamorphosis). Yeah, sure, it’s cool… but how many times do I need to see Criss or one of his characters show up somewhere unexpected?
Bottom Line for Criss Angel’s Believe: I enjoyed it. Drop the price $20, and I’d like it more. 3.5 of 5 stars.
*- much of this show has been somewhat “de-Cirque’d” as it were.
the above was not what was presented when I saw it.
Criss Angel/Cirque website
On Wednesday (1/18), I decided to follow Criss with some more magic. This had to be Penn & Teller. The hour prior to show was featuring the Mike Jones Duo (Mike on piano, and Penn on upright bass). I’m a fan of Penn Jillette via his skepticism slant, his Crackle show, his Penn Point show, his book (God No!), and their recent Discovery show P&T Tell a Lie. I’ve yet to see the Bullshit series on Showtime (but I will!), but what I had seen via short internet clips – I knew I’d like.
Prior to the show on Wednesday, they invited everyone in the audience to come check out the big wooden box on stage and sign an envelope. The box was solid, no false bottom / trap door that I could see. The opening of the box was facing the crowd, and when the show started, Penn came out, shut the door, and only moments later Teller showed up inside the box. WTF!?
Some of my favorite tricks were cell fish, metal detector, slight of hand, ball and string, phony psychics (with the audience signed envelope), helium, the ring trick with Grace, sawing woman in half (better than Criss Angel), goldfish/coins, cow barn camera, nail gun (wow! Penn’s memory!), American flag burning, flower shadow, and the magic bullet.
OK, those were basically all of the tricks. There were honestly no slow parts. I found it all profoundly interesting and genuinely entertaining. Some tricks, I had an idea how they were done. Other tricks were simply feats of the mind. And some tricks are still driving me mad…
Bottom Line for Penn & Teller: If you love magic, go see this show. Utterly brilliant. They tip their hand a bit, but still mess with you. 4.5 of 5 stars. I would see this again, without flinching.
the official P&T trailer
ignore the cheesy music (by Rio), this show rocked
Penn & Teller website
Friday night (1/20), it was date night… the sensual Cirque du Soleil show Zumanity. This is the “sensual side” of Cirque du Soleil. No, it was the HOT side. We had 2nd row seats… luckily we escaped the torment of the Cirque “clowns” (barely).
The show started out with a beautiful wind dance mixed with an African dance. The first bit of acrobatics was with a pool performance (see to the right) by two gorgeous beauties. Up next was quite amazing… a hula hoop woman who did amazing work on stage, then hula hooped in the air, then hula hooped in the air while doing contortions, and then hula hooped about 20-30 hoops at one time in the air. Her school girl outfit didn’t hurt either.
There were many aerial artists – all amazing, all sexy… even a “little person” aerial ropes artist. There was a pole dancer; an extreme balance guy; a sensual balancing couple; a 2-man cage fight over a girl that turned into a lurid, long homo-erotic kiss (saw it coming a mile away, but it was hot); the rose guy’s striptease that worked the crowd into a frenzy; an amazing contortionist; some great audience participation with the clowns in between set changes; an S&M metal hoop guy (blindfolded during parts of his act); and the show culminated in a sexy bath dance number.
Bottom Line for Zumanity: Ya hozna! Hot, sexy, and amazing Cirque acrobatics. 4.75 of 5 stars. I would see this again, without flinching. This is what a Cirque show in Sin City should be! Pay extra and get a good seat – yum!
the official Zumanity trailer
fairly representative of the show
Cirque du Soleil / Zumanity website
The final show of the Vegas week was the water-borne Cirque du Soleil show O on Saturday (1/21). The $70 million dollar pool/theatre was quite amazing. The show was full of some pretty stunning feats – aerial acrobats, outrageous acrobatic diving, floor work with the raising and lowering underwater set, the usual Cirque clowns, a swinging balance girl… but it was all held together by a very confusing/odd storyline (more confusing and odd than other Cirque shows I’ve seen).
The most amazing feats were definitely the diving numbers and the balancing swing woman. The other acrobatics were made a little bit more interesting than other normal Cirque shows simply due to the water element. We even had one visible mistake (an acrobat fell off the aerial boat), but they swam to safety and rejoined the crew later.
Bottom Line for O: Pricier than the rest – I left confused but magically entertained. 4 of 5 stars.
the official O trailer
fairly representative of the show
Cirque du Soleil / O website
Best show: Zumanity, with P&T close behind. If you compared the budgets of both shows, P&T’s was more economical from both an artist creation and audience wallet perspective (high quality entertainment, with a lot of thought and not a lot of exorbitant, unnecessary cash outlay).
Most Frivolous Vegas-y show: O for sheer audacity of grandeur. BeLIEve for sheer audacity of ego.
Next time I go to Vegas, I’d take in Zumanity and Penn & Teller again in a heartbeat. I’d also plan to save time for Mystère and Kà – the other non-band-oriented Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas. I might go see the Beatles’ Cirque show (LOVE), but I am not as keen on the Elvis one (Viva).