Cirque du Soliel has been reinventing the concept of the Circus arts for over 20 years with and impressive list of productions that have mashed up traditional circus acts with elements such as live music, water, fire with great success. With their newest production, CRYSTAL, Cirque is bringing circus arts to the ice.
The beauty in many of the Cirque shows is the story told. Rather than a collection of acts, each production has a unifying story and the performances are acts in the overarching tale. According to the press release, “Crystal, the show’s main character, sets out on an exhilarating quest to fulfill her destiny as she dives into a world of her own imagination. She soars through this surreal world at high speed to become what she was always destined to be: confident, freed, empowered.”
I was happy that I had read the press release prior to attending. CRYSTAL starts out slow and to be honest, I found myself wondering what was going on. As the show opens, we see a young Crystal stuck in some dystopian society filled with uniformed students and worker drones moving robotically throughout their day. Trying to break free of the barriers surrounding her, Crystal falls though the ice into another world.
The first half of CRYSTAL is focused on advancing the “story”. After a very slow start, the show finally starts to heat up with a high flying, crowd-pleasing hockey sequence. In a very smart move, playing to the home town audience, Crystal comes out to direct the acrobatic hockey players donning a San Jose Sharks sweater. The crowd goes wild and the excitement gets that much greater as skilled skaters fly over jumps, into the air and around the ice in a rousing game. Just when the crowd was getting into it, CRYSTAL broke for intermission.
The second half of the show was much livelier. The ice staking gets more technically entertaining and the acrobatics more interesting. One unique element of CRYSTAL is that the ice becomes a canvas for projections that are very effective in enhancing the staking and movement along such a big space. The lighting and projections were very well done.
I have to give it to Cirque for continuing to innovate and push the envelope in the circus arts space, but CRYSTAL is definitely not one of the more successful productions. That being said, any Cirque show is better than most of the entertainment options available in San Jose on any given night. There are moments of “wow!” and laughter. If you love live performances or are looking for a night of mindless entertainment, CRYSTAL is worth checking out.