Cirque du Soleil on ice sounds like a joke.
But with “Crystal,” the troupe’s latest avant entertainment endeavor -- at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena through Sunday, Jan. 14 -- Cirque really does hit the domain of hockey players and figure skaters, with results as spectacular as it’s achieve in prior adventures on land and in air and sea.
Over the course of its 15 numbers and more than two and a half hours (including intermission), “Crystal” gives the usual jaw-dropping Cirque feats a fresh kind of sheen. There are plenty of the company’s standard acrobatic totems as well as skating staples such as lutzes, Salchows, toe loops, axels, spins and lifts, but the ice capades provide plenty of new wrinkles and unusual scenarios, packing as much action as a Red Wings game and the drama of an Olympics free skate final.
There is, of course, a story -- in this case about a precious outsider named Crystal who falls through the ice while out skating and experiences a through-the-looking-glass netherworld of beings portrayed as frightening to her but enormously entertaining for the audience. Some of Cirque’s favorite themes -- individuality, alienation, crippling conformity -- are explored, but, as in most of the productions, the message is eclipsed by the performances.
And there are many during “Crystal” that leave you wondering just how someone decides to make this kind of thing their life’s work, whether it’s the nimble gang of hockey players getting big air off of ramps, the juggler on skates, the synchronized pole acrobats or the guy who balances on a stack of chairs that keeps getting higher until it reaches near where the arena scoreboard usually resides. There are also a couple of genuinely amazing trapeze acts, both hoisting Crystals (portrayed by four skaters/acrobats) high above the ice, bending and twirling with only a safety net of fellow actors ready to catch her.
There are elements of humor, too, including a breakdancing clown who slips in and out of some of the acts and a trio of ice “tap” dancers with microphones in their skates and a playful, infectious camaraderie.
“Crystal” can’t help but leave your jaw dropped, at least a little, in wonder at not only how the Cirquers manage to do these things but also how the company has managed to find another new territory to conquer. It doesn’t have quite the same competitive drama, but rest assured that next month we might not be quite as impressed with the Olympic skaters after seeing “Crystal.”
If You Go:
• Cirque du Soleil Crystal
• Through Sunday, Jan. 24.
• Little Caesar’s Arena, 2645 Woodward Ave., Detroit
• Tickets are $45-$140.
• Call 313-471-7000 or visit 313Presents.com.
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