Criss Angel knew he wanted to pursue magic at 6, when his aunt Stella showed him a card trick.
“I was enamored with magic,” said the illusionist, whose real name is Christopher Sarantakos. “She was kind enough to share the secret, and then I drove everyone crazy performing it over and over again. I was very engaged by magic. I was just somebody that could not stop thinking about magic. … I started performing and getting paid at 12 years old.”
Angel — who soared to fame when his hit television series, “Mindfreak,” aired on A&E from 2005 to 2010 — brings his popular stage show, “RAW — The Mindfreak Unplugged” to F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, May 2.
Angel’s TV show is syndicated in more than 90 countries, and his Las Vegas stage shows, “Criss Angel BeLIEve” and “Criss Angel Mind-freak Live” — both in partnership with Cirque du Soleil — have been lauded by various critics as the “biggest name in Las Vegas magic.”
This touring show is unlike his residency in Las Vegas, however, Angel said, describing it as a stripped-down version that brings his street magic, mentalism and some of his most iconic illusions to life in an intimate, raw setting.
“This RAW tour has really given me an opportunity to do something I’ve never done in Vegas,” Angel said. “I get to do that close-up magic that I’ve done very successfully on television but never performed live. It’s an unplugged version of ‘Mindfreak.’ Basically, it’s a little bit of everything.”
Though he credits Harry Houdini, Doug Henning and Richiardi Jr. as influences to his style, much of Angel’s inspiration comes from popular culture, art and the people closest to him.
“My dad was the greatest influence to me,” Angel added. “He taught me the power of the mind and how, when it works together with the … soul, anything is possible.”
In Las Vegas, Angel has a 60,000-square-foot “laboratory” where he and his team work to develop new material and experiences. Some of these stunts and illusions take a few months to perfect; others take several years.
Angel has been recognized for his illusions through the years, receiving multiple Magician of the Year awards from the International Magician Society and, in July, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Although some might know Angel for his stunts, such as his water torture cell in Time Square or freeing himself from a straitjacket while hanging upside down, audiences can expect much more than just wild tricks from his Kirby Center show. Angel said a few moments frighten people, and others might bring them to tears.
“It’s really a piece of art that people really connect to,” Angel said. “I try to take people on an emotional rollercoaster ride and let them connect and engage and escape their daily lives and see that everything is possible. … The magic of emotions in (RAW) gives people the opportunity to escape reality and see things they’ve never seen before (and) will probably never see again.”

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