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‘Believe’ what you will about delay

Take your pick: The Criss Angel show is either so dull it needs a wake-up call or so groundbreaking that it needs more time to fine-tune its technical complexities.

You won’t find out which is right before Sept. 26, the new date for the first ticketed preview of "Criss Angel — Believe." Cirque du Soleil announced earlier this week that Luxor previews were being pushed back two weeks, from Sept. 12. The date for the opening night gala is still Oct. 10, so the window for ticketed previews is considerably shorter than the month for "Love" and more than two months for "Ka."

With those titles, the main goal of previews was to make tweaks or changes based partly on audience reaction, Cirque spokeswoman Anita Nelving explains. If automated props or sets broke down in the course of things, everyone took it in stride.

This time, illusions are involved and "there are elements that can’t be worked out during previews," she says. If a technical gaffe exposes how a trick is done, that’s a real problem. "This is the first time we’ve created a show of illusion, and we underestimated the amount of time we needed."

On the other hand, a member of the show’s production staff reports (through a third party) that "Believe" is "just out and out boring," and that the illusions are more of the close-up variety that don’t hold up in a large theater.

It’s true that Angel has worked more in television than live theater, and his "Mindfreak" series places its stunts and escapes in the real world. Angel’s last stage show was in a 150-seat theater in New York, which could lend credence to the report that he is "having a hard time making the transition from the small stage to the big stage."

And Angel himself has noted that "Believe" is mostly free of the cabinet illusions seen up and down the Strip. That could indirectly back up the source’s claim that whatever magic replaces them doesn’t carry all the way to the back row.

Angel’s publicist, Steve Flynn, dismisses that. "This is Criss Angel we’re talking about. Nothing’s too small," he says. "Everybody is going to be absolutely blown away." But, he adds, "a roomful of perfectionists" are involved, and "it’s not just the illusions that are holding everything up." …

"The World’s Greatest Magic Show" celebrated Labor Day by calling it quits at the Greek Isles. Producer Dick Feeney says the long-term future of the obscure off-Strip hotel is never certain, and he would like to get the show up and running in a new location before the holiday season brings families back to the Strip.

But this summer was no bonanza even with the families. Feeney slashed the show’s prices to less than $30 in April, and tried a novel promotion of offering at least 50 free tickets to the first people who called each day. If none of that worked, then things weren’t likely to improve once Criss Angel’s show further crowds the magic market. …

"Shear Madness," the interactive mystery comedy institution, could extend the definition of "the Strip" for shows. Producers opted to build out their own theater in the Town Square shopping center instead of cutting the usual deal with a casino. One of the benefits of doing it that way was a seven-year lease, and you can’t blame the producers for thinking long term. Their show has played for 28 years in Boston and 22 years in Washington, D.C.

Previews begin Nov. 7, with the press night Nov. 14. The six cast members are in the Actors Equity union, but the show is partially improvised and the audience helps solve the murder of a concert pianist who lives above a hair salon.

"In our show it’s very voluntary," executive producer Terrence Williams explains of the audience participation. "It’s not forced upon the unwilling."

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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