Cirque du Soleil's twenty-fourth production opened Halloween 2008 at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Directed by Serge Denoncourt, this is the first Cirque show built around a specific performer — Stage Magician Criss Angel, who hit the big time with his TV show Mindfreak. As such, this is also Cirque's first show to be based around magic and illusion, with their grandiose production values providing a gothic-inspired atmosphere for his tricks.
Believe opened to the worst critical reviews any Cirque production has endured (this was typical) and initial audience response was no better. As a result it was retooled, dropping the original storyline linking the tricks together and from there most of Cirque's conceptual contributions. A further Retool took place in 2016, whereupon the show was retitled Criss Angel Mindfreak Live! In this form, it ran until 2018.
To make the trope examples short and sweet, they are divided between the original version of the show and the first Retool.
The original show (2008-10) had examples of:
- All Just a Dream / Dream Land: The show started with Criss performing a Mindfreak-styled revue until a trick with a Tesla coil went horribly wrong, plunging him into a gothic dream world. There was even a But You Were There, and You, and You moment at the end (besides the Ushers, Crimson was the counterpart of a camerawoman in the "real" world).
- Bloodier and Gorier: For Cirque; this review of the original take called it "the most death-obsessed show to emerge from Sin City since CSI".
- Clever Crows: Kayala had "Crowmen" amongst her minions.
- Costume Porn
- Creepy Doll: Creepy, life-sized, cracked porcelain lady dolls, a trio of whom Criss encountered.
- Disney Death: Twice. First, Crimson and her minions magically killed Kayala, and then had the despondent Criss sawn in two. The subsequent funeral for him had a restored Kayala among the mourners, along with Crimson — but then she was replaced in her chair by Criss.
- Hair-Raising Hare: Many, many rabbits (mostly dancers) who provided the show's big visual motif. They were dropped in retooling due in part to complaints that they got too much stage time.
- The Ingenue: Kayala, a lovely lass who became the object of Criss's affection in the dream.
- Love at First Sight: Criss for Kayala.
- "No Talking or Phones" Warning: Delivered twice, the second time coming after the Tesla coil trick went wrong by a computer-animated rabbit introducing the "real" show. It was promptly killed by a falling spotlight.
- Paparazzi: Crimson ruined Criss and Kayala's wedding with a troupe of camera-wielding minions called "Paparazzi" in the program.
- Pull a Rabbit out of My Hat: The ubiquity of this trick was the basis for the dance "Homage to the Rabbits" (specifically, those that didn't survive it).
- Something Completely Different: For Cirque du Soleil.
- Take That, Critics!: When notorious celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton attended in April 2009, he sent Twitter messages to his followers during the performance to tell them how bad it was. Criss found out about this by the time the show was over, and during the curtain call pointed and profanely chewed him out in front of everyone. In the end, it was Criss who bore the brunt of media criticism for childish, unprofessional behavior, especially since he never apologized for it (though Cirque management would).
- The Vamp: Crimson in the dream world.
The retooled version retained and added examples of:
- The Artifact: The ushers, Kayala, and Crimson — especially the latter two, since they no longer have any story to serve a larger purpose in. They could have been dropped along with the dancers except that the performers make useful assistants and provide some comedy in the ushers' case.
- Audience Participation: Among other things, one of the tricks is the old magic standby in which the magician asks audience members simple questions (name, hometown, etc.) and the answers appear on a large piece of paper that's in a locked box, itself hanging above the stage long before the show starts.
- Fairytale Wedding Dress: For Kayala in the "Wedding" act. The train is so big that it covers the back wall of the stage, and from there Criss walks down it.
- It's All About Me: Angel spends a lot of time boasting about his fame, sharing pictures from his childhood, and reminding the audience how popular his TV show was.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The original trailer wasn't replaced with a new one until December 2010, even though the bulk of what was in the ad (dancers, Costume Porn, etc.) was dropped from the show long before then.
- Plucky Comic Relief/Sidekick: The four ushers who serve as Criss's assistants.
- Saw a Woman in Half: An elaborate take on this trick is the show's climax. (Originally, it was Criss cut in half.)