3.5 stars out of 4
Cirque du Soleil has been creating large-scale, multidisciplinary circus shows for 33 years, and this one is no different: Crystal is an action-packed, jaw-dropping, delightful spectacle. It has the juggling, trapeze work, and flips you might expect. What sets Crystal apart from its predecessors is that these gravity-defying tricks are performed on ice, new territory for the company and an element that heightens the already impressive effect for viewers.
One goes to the circus to admire the athleticism and skill of its performers, and Cirque’s are world-class. They come from ten countries, and many are alumni of national gymnastics and acrobatics teams. Nobohar Dadui stars as Crystal, with beautiful solo skating moments and a swinging trapeze routine done in ice skates. A fun scene pits two jugglers against each other who keep many balls in the air…on ice skates. A swinging pole act involves leaping between two swinging poles a few dozen feet in the air (not in ice skates—that would be crazy). A hockey-themed scene features movable ramps where extreme skaters fly in the air, and a lovable ice tap dance showcases rhythmic tricks amplified by microphones attached to the skates. The most climactic, gasp-inducing moments come during Emily McCarthy’s hand to trapeze act, where she drops head first and lands in a perfect split, caught inches from the floor by her spotters.
Yet for all this skill, Crystal is not flawless—a dropped hat here, a slightly off-kilter landing there. This just made me love it even more: a reminder that these seemingly otherworldly performers are in fact human like the rest of us.
Crystal never lets your attention waiver, supported by multi-million dollar production quality. The lighting is incredibly complex, the costumes are lovely, and some of the music is live. The animated projections on the ice-palace set totally work. If you’ve had a long day, Crystal is the perfect escapist fantasy to lose yourself in.
The only thing keeping this show from a 4-star rating is its confusing, often ridiculous plot. Crystal, the main character, is introduced to us as a schoolgirl fighting with her family—yet at one point performs a sexy duet in her underwear with a man. The show is supposedly about Crystal’s journey to find herself, but the eye-roll inducing voiceover text spews platitudes about “fighting for love.” The show could have done away with any pretense of a plot and simply wowed us with its abstract physical theater…..then again, the audience’s many ten-year olds might disagree.
Crystal plays one weekend only: through November 19 at Sears Centre Arena (5333 Prairie Stone Pkwy, Hoffman Estates, IL). Call (847) 649-2222 or visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/crystal for tickets and more information.