Cirque du Soleil Unveils – Criss Angel BELIEVE

Las Vegas, NV – October 31, 2008 – Cirque du Soleil and Luxor celebrate the gala premiere of CRISS ANGEL Believe TM Halloween, October 31, 2008.

Halloween is particularly significant for CRISS ANGEL Believe as it marks the anniversary of the passing of legendary magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini. In an attempt to pay homage to the late/great Harry Houdini, Criss chose “Believe” as the title for this unprecedented live experience.

Every Halloween for 10 years following Harry Houdini’s death, his wife held a vigil to test the legitimacy of people who claimed to be able to communicate with Houdini. To claim success they needed to say the code word – BELIEVE.

CRISS ANGEL Believe, by Cirque du Soleil is a haunting exploration deep inside the inventive mind of mystifier Criss Angel as he hovers between the land of the living and a surreal world uniquely woven together by the distinctive imaginations of Criss Angel and Cirque du Soleil. Unlike traditional magic-themed shows, CRISS ANGEL Believe transcends any preconceived notion of what it means to be emotionally engaged by the arts of mysticism and illusion. The show is a fantasy, an allegory, a highly theatrical tableau of mood, reverie and emotion set against a backdrop of dreamlike darkness and light.

Criss Angel stars as a surreal, enigmatic Victorian Noble. Along a path of imaginative exploration, he encounters Kayala and Crimson, two women who represent different aspects of femininity. Along his path he discovers four comical Ushers who introduce the audience to the baroque theater of Criss’ mind. The production features an intense troupe of characters and dancers who mix a multitude of styles into a high-energy visual feast, punctuated by moments of grace and sensuality.

The stunning illusions in CRISS ANGEL Believe are not presented as standalone elements, but as interdependent components using heightened imagery, fantastical creatures and impossible feats of legerdemain, all of which are integrated into the dazzling, colorful fabric of thestory.

CRISS ANGEL Believe is presented in a custom-built theater at Luxor Las Vegas.


“Fabric is between the flesh and the soul. This is where I love to slide.” (Mérédith Caron)

Mérédith Caron’s designs for CRISS ANGEL Believe had to be complex and multidimensional because so many of the costumes contribute more to the show than simply a look.

Without giving away any of the illusionist’s secrets, many aspects of the costumes include features and choices of materials that put them into a category that is somewhere between costumes and props. Individual garments, rags and bits of fabric may be integral to the illusionist’s performance, whether Criss Angel is wearing them or another performer is contributing to the astonishing happenings on stage.

The overall look of the show is rich and imbued with a patina of Victorian atmosphere overlaid with a dream-like surrealism that the show’s director Serge Denoncourt has dubbed “Weirdtorian.” The costumes play a major role in creating the look, and are designed to mesh with the set designs, the masks and puppets, the lighting and so on. This is achieved through fabric choice, colors and cut.

The cut of the coats – especially the men’s coats – is long and sweeping with deep vents that are reminiscent of Victorian topcoats, but Mérédith Caron is at pains to state that she has no interest in recreating precise replicas of 19th century costumes. These are interpretations that use the Victorian era as a jumping-off point for entirely modern designs.

Mérédith points out that the “Weirdtorian” costumes contain references to the worlds of Charles Dickens and Tim Burton, and therefore convey a sense of darkness in all senses of the word – and the best fabric for that is velvet. However the velvets she has used are by no means off-the-shelf fabrics. Some are printed, others have three-dimensional Paisley-like designs that reflect two surfaces very differently depending on how the light strikes them. “There are a lot of black fabrics in the costumes and that is unprecedented for Cirque,” says Mérédith. “But they are a living black.”

Desire and seduction are integral to the show’s themes and many of the more striking costumes evoke this through intense colors and richness of detail. In addition to velvets, the CRISS ANGEL Believe costumes include leathers, gold tones, jewels and stiffened, pleated lace-like fabrics that undulate like waves. When Mérédith first met Criss Angel she studied the contents of his own wardrobe and decided – as a first step – to build on that by magnifying certain aspects of his existing personal look and blending them with the visual direction of the show.

When he saw the finished costumes for the first time, Criss Angel had a special request. He asked for the three letters “JDS” to be embroidered in the collar of his coats. They are far too small and subtle to ever be seen by the audience, but they mean a great deal to Criss because they are his beloved late father’s initials.


“Everything on the stage is charged with magic. So given that we are doing a magic show, we knew that everything, starting with the classic magic show elements: the hat, the chair, the stool, and so on, would be under constant scrutiny.” (Michael Curry, Props and Puppets Designer)

The lines between puppets, masks, props, costumes and scenery are not always clearly defined. A mask may blend with a makeup design or a costume. A puppet may be more like a costume than a marionette or it could be big enough to be on the scale of the scenery.


There are many puppets in the show, including costume hybrid devices worn by the performers, playing characters that have just come out of the coma into which Criss Angel has been plunged.

Many of the puppet characters are animals, and many of them are rabbits – and they come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. Some are cute and adorable, others more threatening and evil. “This gallery of phantasmagorical characters puts forward odd, quirky and avant-garde concepts that we would probably expect to see in a contemporary opera or a fantasy film festival,” says Michael Curry.

  • At the top of the show, six hidden puppeteers make body parts come together to form the “burnt Criss” puppet.
  • There are three rabbits with human performers inside: one small, one medium and one that stands upside down on its ears.
  • There are also rats, moles, birds and sinister giants that are built from human bodies – a hybrid of the performer’s body and the creature.
  • The rabbit that delivers the pre-show announcements is equipped with 11 servos: He is completely robotic and is linked to the theatre’s sound system.
  • There are five other robotic and computer-controlled puppets.
  • An electronic tornado is unleashed at one point in the show that is considered part prop, part puppet, part set design – and all illusion.
  • There is a huge robotic flower that delivers the aerialist playing the part of Kayala.
  • In an amazing scene there is a downpour of poppies.
  • There are smoke machines and lighting devices built into many of the puppets.
  • The puppets utilize many space age materials such as carbon fiber composites and various super lightweight structures.


There are many masks in the show. Masks have the ability to sharpen the characters and keep them present.

While they primarily help to establish character, some of them may be involved in the illusions: During one scene there are 15 versions of Kayala, all created using the masked face.

Lightweight materials make it possible for the dancers to perform wearing masks that extend two feet in front of them.


Kinetics are a major feature of the set design and the props, which
are integral to the illusions, blend not only with the set design but
the lighting and projections too.

  • The chainsaw that cuts Criss in half has a real blade and has smoke billowing out of it. It is operated by a flying performer.
  • The Birth Machine and the War Machine are two of the major contraptions: they are not static objects, they move, they spin, they roll, they catch fire, they transform, so they are regarded as somewhere between props and puppets.
  • Props and magic have always been strong partners.
  • The sheer precision of the trick props have been a wonderful challenge.


“Architecture establishes a close link between structure, space and human beings amalgamating several disciplines to create a live show.” (Ray Winkler, Set Designer)

The Luxor Theatre is configured in a classical proscenium layout. Early in the creation process director Serge Denoncourt decided he wanted a traditional theatrical approach to the show that would be very far from a Vegas pastiche.

The sets and the illusions are intrinsically intertwined. To be successful, magic illusions must establish and control a host of details, including color, texture, lighting and reflectivity of the materials.

Set Design

“The challenge was to incorporate magic and illusions into the set elements,” says set designer Ray Winkler. “It was interesting to learn about the techniques of illusion. Criss Angel has to put in considerable effort to transcend the technical constraints and present his magic with apparent simplicity.”

The various environments in the show are created from a broad range of approaches and types of sets, the scenic moments run the gamut from highly elaborate to extremely spartan. Jeanette Farmer’s lighting plays a key role not only in the composition of the acts and scenes, but also in creating the mood and atmosphere of a faraway world. “Through lighting, we challenge the senses of viewers by showing them that we have nothing to hide,” says Jeanette. “Then we totally destabilize them by making the impossible happen right before their eyes.”

“You might describe the overall atmosphere of the show as dark, twisted, somewhat sinister and a little threatening,” says set designer Ray Winkler. “We wanted to destabilize the public. For example, the proscenium frame is richly decorated and full of detail you assume is associated with traditional theatre decor. When you look more closely, you realize that its meaning has been subverted and that the subject matter is not as cute and innocent as it might seem at first sight.”


According to projections designer Francis Laporte, the central concept of the projections in this show is to play with audience perceptions and create a kind of dialogue between the real and the virtual. Thus, the projections help shape the various environments of the show with a Gothic and Victorian flavor. The mysterious mixes with the grandiose, the bizarre with the sublime.

Francis created a Victorian world around Criss Angel that is strange, but with an ultrachic side to it too, reminiscent of the world of Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam, with shades of the postmodern and a certain timelessness. His projections are designed to transform the entire atmosphere on stage by changing the image on the backdrop at the click of a switch. They help define the scene, to create the many moods of the show and support the many jumps in time throughout the story.

“Sometimes I give a certain situation greater dimension by multiplying the elements of the story,” says Francis. “For example, for the cascade of poppies I created a vast field of poppies on a virtual turquoise sky. My ultimate goal is to give dimensions of perspective and depth. Sometimes I’m aiming for a passage from the virtual to the real, sometimes a passage from the real to the virtual – and at moments like that the projections are closely linked to the work of Criss Angel.”

Francis Laporte’s objective was not to create confined spaces, but broad environments like the sky or a field or a forest. That is why he opted for composite 3-D images, noting that he was constantly concerned that the technology should never project anything that looked fake or artificial.

Some facts:

  • We use 20 Christie Roadster S+20k projectors
  • We project onto two seamless screens
  • The upstage screen is 30 feet x 60 feet (rear projection only)
  • The downstage screen is 20 feet x 32 feet (front and rear projection)
  • There are two manually operated projectors on custom pedestals with custom joystick controls much like a camera for the zoom and focus.
  • The creation of the Gold Frame involved the talents of 30 sculptors, moldmakers and painters over a period of three months.
  • There are seven rabbit characters on the carved gold frame, the largest, the center clock rabbit, measures 10’00” x 10’06”.
  • The Gold Frame contains automations, special effects and lighting.
  • There are humorous references to magic and illusion in the sculpture of the frame with motifs of rabbits and saw blades replacing the traditional egg and dart architectural molding, as well as bunnies in straitjackets on the plinths.
  • The crumbling architectural proscenium facade opening is 60′ x 35′ with layers of wallpaper, brick, plaster, rubble, vines and remnants of architecture.
  • There are over 8000 linear feet of laser cut vines (made of synthetic material) in three different patterns on the proscenium and the blue patina wall.
  • {SOURCE: Cirque du Soleil Press Room}