Criss Angel brings bag of tricks to Rivers Casino show |
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Criss Angel brings bag of tricks to Rivers Casino show

Mary Pickels

Known for leaving audiences gasping, scratching their heads, and wondering aloud, “How did he do that,” magician Criss Angel will bring “RAW – The Mindfreak Unplugged” to The Event Center at Rivers Casino on June 9.

He promises to include the sleight of hand, mentalism and illusions that made him famous.

Angel is the youngest inductee voted into the International Magicians Society Hall of Fame, according to a release from Rivers Casino.

His upcoming appearance will mark Angel’s first performance at Rivers Casino.

“Our philosophy is to offer a wide variety of entertainment to our audience,” says Shannon Redmond, casino vice president of marketing.

“Magic is one of the oldest and most successful performing arts. People are naturally drawn to the mystique, making Criss Angel an excellent addition to our entertainment offering,” Redmond adds.

He is creator, producer, director and star of the magic television series “Criss Angel MINDFREAK” on the A&E network. He has performed on numerous television specials and regularly performs in Las Vegas.

Angel spoke with the Tribune-Review via email in advance of his upcoming Pittsburgh appearance.

Early trickster

At a young age, Angel learned how intoxicating it can be to know something others do not.

“I remember — after learning my first trick at age 6 — that I felt this incredible sense of power that an adult didn’t understand how it worked, but I did,” he says.

“I practiced magic tricks obsessively from that point and did my first magic show at age 12 at a neighbor’s birthday party. I made $10.”

Magicians who inspired

Whose footsteps did he aspire to follow in? No surprise that several masters of escape and illusion top the list, including Harry Houdini.

Angel also cites Richiardi and Doug Henning as inspirational in the art he, too, has conquered.

Mastering the magic

Like many performers, he practiced his craft by putting on shows for his family.

“My Aunt Stella taught me my first card trick. From then on I was hooked. My first audience was my family on Long Island (New York). My first ‘assistant’ was my mother, who I levitated on a broom in our living room,” Angel says.

Asked to describe himself — is he a magician, an entertainer, an actor — Angel chooses another word to explain what he does on stage and when he interacts with his audiences.

“I am an artist that uses many different art forms to connect to people on (an) emotional level,” he says.

Does one trick or illusion or performance stand out for its level of difficulty or audience redirection?

“I’ve done a lot of really tough illusions over the course of 116 episodes of television and over 4,000 live performances,” Angel says.

“But probably the most difficult thing that I dealt with, if I had to pick one demonstration, was when I hung by four fish hooks, from my flesh, from a helicopter 1,000 feet over the Valley of Fire (in Nevada) which was not a trick. It was incredibly beautiful and painful,” he says.

Not easy to fool

Angel says challenges and mastering of illusions typically put him only in competition with himself.

“Unfortunately, I do not have that sense of wonderment because I create all my illusions and magic and have been doing so for many, many years. So magicians don’t typically fool me,” he says.

“I think ‘RAW’ embodies many demonstrations that were very challenging to bring to life. People will see live what I performed on television, unplugged and in their faces,” Angel promises.

Surprising the audience

Why should people go to his show, and what can they expect?

“Expect the unexpected,” he says.

Along with many demonstrations fans have seen on his televised shows, Angel says he will deliver some of his “most famous signature illusions.”

“You won’t believe your eyes,” he says.

Enjoying the response

Angel gets a kick out of eager audiences who have no idea what’s coming.

“That’s exactly what I want. … Their reactions are genuine, and when they see something they’ve never seen before their mind is truly blown, and you never know how they are going to react — which is incredibly entertaining for me,” he says.

As a magician, why does he think so many of us are so fascinated with magic?

“Magic brings out the child in all of us, and allows us to believe that the impossible is possible. If I can fly all over the stage, maybe fans can accomplish their goal of being an actor or a singer,” he suggests.

Rolling with it

Audience members sometimes witness a performer stumble, or forget a line, but can be forgiving as long as they are enjoying the show.

How does Angel handle the occasional misfire?

“The great thing for me is that I have the element of surprise. So if something goes wrong, I can roll with it and have a different outcome as a result, unbeknownst to the audience. Many times it provides a better effect or routine than the original demonstration,” he says.

Most common request

Out of everything he has up his sleeve, what do fans most often ask Angel to do?

“The thing I get asked to do most often, and is a signature of mine, is levitation,” he says.

”I’ve just premiered a brand new levitation in my Las Vegas show at Planet Hollywood that I’ve been working on for almost 20 years. It’s mind blowing. I fly all over the stage and, at the end, I levitate both myself and an assistant,” Angel says.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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