Most Cirque shows don't have a star, so Believe has been under intense scrutiny... Most recent is this very long LA Times writeup, which describes Angel as, "a celebrity-canoodling tabloid mainstay", and says that the Luxor spent $100 million on the show. It's mostly about Angel himself, but they do talk about the show a bit:
SCHEDULED TO be performed 4,600 times in the Luxor's 1,600-capacity theater (which has been revamped with a gilded steampunk aesthetic), "Believe" begins with a set piece involving "Mindfreak" before switching gears. It follows a Victorian gentleman (Angel) who must navigate surrealistic, sometimes sexually aggressive tableaux vivant peopled by monsters and dolls, lovers and killing machines. As he searches for love and cheats death, the magician finds time to escape a straitjacket while suspended dozens of feet above the audience, appears to allow a dancer to crawl directly through his torso, get cut in half by a giant buzz saw and even be pulled out of a giant top hat by the show's comedic leitmotif, a rabbit.
Another piece here in the Las Vegas Review Journal: MIKE WEATHERFORD: Clock ticking on 'Believe' changes
"What we're working on and workshopping, the world of entertainment has never seen," added the show's director, Serge Denoncourt. "It's never been done before. I know that's hype but it's true."
They still have 26 whole days to put that stuff in. So far, Angel has made good on one vow: not to box in the tricks with cabinetry. But the illusions are otherwise the same ones seen up and down the Strip. (That's fact, not critical opinion.)
One, where a person appears to pass through Angel's torso, has its own Wikipedia entry explaining the secret. I wondered how any of these classics could be kept secret in the Internet era. Apparently, they can't.
It could be Cirque didn't go to the right people. A handful of behind-the-scenes illusion builders are recognized as the go-to guys for the major magicians. It's said they did not sign on with Cirque because Cirque wanted to buy their work outright. The usual practice is that the builder retains the rights to the proprietary idea, selling the same illusion to different magicians.
Given Cirque's immense resources, maybe the idea was to avoid the usual suspects and recruit some new thinking. Hey, they still have three weeks to make some calls.
One of the self-described "nuts and bolts guy(s)" is Bill Smith, a Las Vegan who works for Lance Burton and others. "There are only so many things you can do onstage. Cirque has found this out," he says. "It's hard to take the stuff that already exists and improve upon it."
Still, he reminds me of a couple of recent successes. Penn & Teller have a gory new twist on the old sawing-in-half trick. David Copperfield and another person vanish astonishingly from a type of forklift suspended over the audience. Both, Smith says, apply new procedure to old principles.
OK, so maybe I still do believe in magic. So far, it's just not at a show called "Believe."
I guess I'll see for myself in two weeks!