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April 30, 2018

Criss Angel in AC: prepare for a mind-blowing experience

For this long-time visitor and first-time headliner, there's a lot inside his bag of tricks

Megastar magician Criss Angel makes his Atlantic City debut May 4 at Caesars Atlantic City. Sort of. 

While the gig at the Boardwalk gambling den represents Criss Angel’s first performance at a Jersey gaming hall, he’s hardly a stranger to the seaside resort.

“I have a very long history with Atlantic City,” the 49-year-old Long Island native noted during a recent phone call. 

“When I was dreaming about my career, I spent a lot of time in Atlantic City, walking that boardwalk, getting pooped on by those seagulls--it actually happened to me! I'm very, very familiar with Atlantic City and spent a good part of the '80s and '90s there--and loved it, loved it, loved it.”

Angel spoke fondly of the days when magic shows were a large part of the Atlantic City casino entertainment scene, and of seeing performances by such headlining wizards as Dick Foster, the Melinda Saxe (who billed herself as “The First Lady of Magic”) and Jeff McBride, whose presentation was influenced by Japanese Kabuki theater. And he chuckled when recalling the cons he’d pull on his regular jaunts to AyCee.

“I had a little scam so I could get free rooms,” he admitted. “I'd pretend I was gambling a lot of money and I would get comps to eat because back then, I really couldn't afford much of anything.”

Turning serious, he added that his days of “walking that boardwalk and dreaming and fantasizing [about performing at a casino there] goes to show if you have a dream, it's absolutely possible to realize it. I'm living proof of it.”

So, if Atlantic City played such a crucial role in his life, why has it taken him so long to gig there?

“I had a little thing called a 10-year contract in Las Vegas,” he said referring to “Criss Angel BeLIEve” and the still-running Criss Angel Midfreak Live,” his two hot-ticket collaborations with Cirque du Soliel at the pyramid-shaped Luxor Resort & Casino, “and more than 100 episodes of television [“Criss Angel Mindfreak,” which aired between 2005 and 2010 on A&E, and its 2013 successor, “Criss Angel BeLIEve’ on Spike TV]. “So, I wasn't doing a lot of traveling.

Whether they're afraid of snakes, or tarantulas, or scorpions, or clowns, or whatever it is, it's gonna come alive on their body, in their purse, in their hat."

“Now I'm starting to get a little more time to travel and to tour and experience people and magic and the interaction of [the two]. It's a beautiful thing. I'm so excited to be coming to the east coast and to perform at Caesars. It’s a dream come true.”

According to Angel, who was born Christopher Sarantakos, his touring show, “Criss Angel RAW—The Mindfreak Unplugged,” is not a bus-and-truck version of his Vegas extravaganza, but an amalgamation of old and new illusions and stunts.

“It's gonna be raw, up-close, in your face,” he said. 

“I'm gonna get people from the audience; I'm gonna bring them onstage with me; I'm gonna talk about people's fears and bring them alive, whether they're afraid of snakes, or tarantulas, or scorpions, or clowns, or whatever it is, it's gonna come alive on their body, in their purse, in their hat.

“I'm gonna [perform] this crazy escape. I'm gonna attempt an illusion right there on Caesars' stage that hasn't been done since the days of Houdini, and we're gonna try it for the first time in Atlantic City.

“You're gonna see incredible mentalism. You're gonna see closeup magic, escape. There's gonna be something for everyone, and by the end of the show, people will probably shed a tear when they see my tribute to all the tragedies that have happened in the world since [the mass shooting in Vegas last fall]. I created a piece of art with that in mind that's very emotional.

“The show is really like an emotional roller-coaster ride. It takes people up and don't know what's coming next, but one thing you do know is that you're gonna have an amazing time. It's entertainment for the whole family and it will absolutely be mind-blowing."

While his goal is obviously to entertain and astound, at least equally important to Angel is that his presentation creates a personal connection between him and those in the audience.

“It's gonna be a celebration of life, of magic, of experiences,” he promised, “and I think people will really get to know Criss Angel, Cristos--the crazy character with the makeup--and Christopher, the person you're talking to right now.”

Criss Angel performs this Friday, May 4 at Caesars Atlantic City, Boardwalk at Arkansas Avenue. Show time is 9 p.m. Tickets are $273-$80. Click here for more information.