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December 22, 2014

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Believe’ making progress with two weeks to go

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Criss Angel

Fifteen days stand between Criss Angel and the premiere of his $100-million Cirque du Soleil production, "Criss Angel Believe."

As the cast continues to put the finishing touches on the performance, a question remains: Will "Believe" be ready for its Halloween debut?

"Is the show done? No, it’s not done," Angel said during a dressing room interview following the Sept. 30 preview performance. Two weeks later, it’s still a work in progress.

A Tuesday night performance was tighter and the characters are coming into their own, but the timing needs to be perfected and at least one major illusion has yet to be performed.

Angel explained two weeks ago the complexities associated with "Believe."

"There’s nothing safe about this show," he said. "It’s a hell of a lot easier when you have a box and inside that box the thing happens. Here you have lighting, you have costumes, you have special effects, you have the illusion, you have the artist, the character development. All of those things have to work harmoniously together in order to have the effect pulled off."

The "Mindfreak" star has been rehearsing in his custom-built theater at the Luxor during the afternoon, then giving twice-nightly preview performances. While critics have sparred with and disagreed over Angel in the past, the 40-year-old magician said he's determined to make this -- his biggest project to date -- a success.

“I’m very, very excited about where we’re going and by Halloween … we’re going to be 110 percent perfection,” he said two weeks ago.

With half a month to go and 23 opportunities left to practice in front of live preview audiences, Angel and his crew still have work to do. He has said the show will be ready by the end of the month.

Progress has been made in the past two weeks and the production has become stronger. Angel’s onstage illusions continue to be tweaked and enhanced, while the choreography and performances are tightening up with practice.

While Angel wasn't a stranger to live theater -- his off-Broadway show, "Criss Angel Mindfreak," enjoyed a successful run in Times Square before the magician moved West in 2003 -- his earlier performances were slightly stiff. He now appears more on the Cirque du Soleil stage.

The performance is becoming increasingly interactive. Angel’s dialogue is light and, while still rehearsed, it's smoother than it was 14 days ago.

The antagonist female lead, played by Aminah-Laila Abdul-Jillil, has also improved. The character, "Crimson," has come into her own over the past two weeks as Abdul-Jillil has developed her stage presence.

"Believe's" music has changed, as the soundtrack has been tailored to fit both the onstage action and audience reaction. Costume changes appear smoother.

"Believe" began five weeks of preview performances Sept. 26. While the premiere originally was slated for Sept. 12, the gala has been pushed back several times to its current date of Oct. 31. With Angel and Cirque not expecting further delays, the Halloween debut appears to be set.

Tickets for "Believe" range in price from $59 to $150, plus taxes and fees, but are discounted 25 percent during the preview phase.

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