Encore Michigan

Cirque du Soleil Crystal dazzles at Little Caesars Arena this week

Review January 11, 2018 Paula Bradley

DETROIT, Mich.–Cirque du Soleil has come a long way from its origins as a troupe of street performers in the early 1980s, to wowing audiences worldwide with its artistic and theatrical version of acrobatics. Now, the Cirque has expanded its repertoire to include a family friendly ice show, entitled Crystal, which combines the poetic art of figure skating with its traditional acrobatic performances.

Metro Detroiters have an opportunity to see this new Cirque synthesis at Little Caesar’s Arena January 10-14, 2018.

The audience is treated to a show before the show, as the performers casually warm up on the ice dressed as skaters in a park, while a patchwork “clown” (a favorite character by the end of the show) engages the audience in real snowball fights and live musicians play at rink side. The musicians make several appearances throughout the show, adding the excitement of live music performance to the mix.

Crystal is loosely story-based, and the story is not that important, really, except that it defines the visual theme of the show: ice. The story begins by introducing Crystal, a schoolgirl whose constant daydreaming has made her a loner. When she falls through the ice on a frozen lake, she enters an alternate version of her own life; she also meets her alter-ego, who finally gives her permission to let her imagination lead her to new places. That imagination becomes the inspiration for each scene in the show.

That’s about where the “story” ends, but where the real action begins. Crystal will please those who like watching figure skating, gymnastics, acrobatics, ballroom dancing, modern dance, or essentially anyone who enjoys a really eclectic mix of constantly moving entertainment, all purportedly springing from Crystal’s mind and pen. And the show truly is constantly moving—not constant acrobatics, mind you, but a perpetually changing mix of skating, tumbling, aerial maneuvers, synchronized choreography, juggling and more, often with multiple bits playing out simultaneously. (Hint: don’t be too distracted by the briefcase dancers, or you’ll miss some pretty exciting stuff going on in the air.)

Crystal may not feature the most complex skating maneuvers audiences have ever seen, or the most unbelievable acrobatic stunts ever conceived. But it doesn’t have to go that far to be thoroughly awe-inspiring nonetheless.   From the ramped skate tricks of the pond hockey scene, to the incredibly difficult balancing act atop a stack of chairs and a table seven levels high, to the strap, swing and trapeze aerial stunts, filled in between with fluid, artistic and well-executed figure skating , the show offers spectacular  “Wow!” moments to be thoroughly worth the price of admission.

The enjoyment of “Crystal” does not lie solely in the blend of incredible maneuvers. It is visually and musically exciting as well. As mentioned above, the ice theme predominates, and “Crystal” uses costume, prop and lighting design to evoke a multitude of textures, from crystals to snow to bubbles and waves. Especially interesting are the cracked ice textures of many of the costumes, and the maze comprised of glass panels.

Additionally, the music is an eclectic mix of styles that work together wonderfully: traditional French folk style, classical, pop, jazz, hip hop, Celtic-inspired metal guitar, and a clever rhythmic percussion piece featuring the sounds of an old typewriter.

In all, there are moments in Cirque du Soleil Crystal that will take your breath away, and other moments that are just plain lovely or fun. It is being performed at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit through January 14, 2018.

Click here for show days, times and ticket info.