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Ice ice baby: a review of Cirque du Soleil CRYSTAL

The Raising Cane’s River Center was host last weekend to Cirque du Soleil’s first venture on ice, “CRYSTAL.” Before the show begins, cast members enjoy a good old fashioned snowball fight–audience included, as crew members run around with metal buckets filled with snowballs encouraging the audience to throw them at the clown below. From that moment, you’re in their world.

Once the show starts, you are instantly transported into the thoughts and imaginings of the main character, a young girl named Crystal. The backdrop is a giant glacier which seamlessly changes throughout the show with staircases, ramps, and artistic projections, all used to further develop each scene. The rink becomes and ice-blue frozen pond where Crystal skates away from her adolescent insecurities about “feeling different” and her humdrum friends and family.

But out there alone (both literally and figuratively) Crystal realizes that her footing is not strong and the thin ice starts to crack. As she twirls and turns, the ice comes crushing in around her until she breaks through.

Suddenly, Crystal is suspended from the ceiling, upside down, tumbling through the ice in slow motion. Think Alice in Wonderland going down the rabbit hole meets Stranger Things’ alter-universe, the “Upside-Down.”

Crystal joins her Reflection on the ice for a poetic skating duo.

In this new frozen playground, Crystal meets a mirror image of herself. She’s given a pen and Crystal discovers that with this one tool, we are all empowered to rewrite our story. We romp through Crystal’s imagination where a daredevil hockey game ensues with dozens of skateboard style ramps for skaters to turn their acrobatic tricks.

Set changes are woven into the production as we travel with Crystal through a playground and school setting to her imaginings of life in the working world with businessmen and women to thoughts of dancing and falling in love with someone with whom she can share her heart.

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Music helps to maintain these smooth transitions, sometimes with their live quartet, and other times with a recorded soundtrack of both original and cover songs.

Crystal has several moments where the entire audience is collectively holding their breath, if not from anticipation from the sheer beauty of what’s going on above them, and on the ice below. One of the highlights is Crystal’s trapeze act set to Sia’s “Chandelier.” Her swings and flips have all of the extraordinary skills you’d expect to see at a Cirque du Soleil show, but the fact that she’s doing this in ice skates makes it anything but expected.

A hockey game on the pond turns into a high-octane romp.

A moment near the end of the production in which Crystal and her imagined love are dancing through the sky with aerial straps to Beyonce’s “Halo” can only be described as ethereal.

The entire performance is dazzling. Everywhere you look there is something amazing from the heights of the trapeze to the talented skaters below. Crystal artfully skates the words “The End” into the ice, but this will just be the beginning of Cirque du Soleil’s foray on ice.

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