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Concert Reviews:
Cirque du Soleil's "AXEL" scorches the ice at Little Caesars Arena
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

» See more SOUND CHECK

Cirque du Soleil's new ice show "AXEL" goes to the dogs -- or at least one dog -- quickly.



And that's a good thing.



A characteristic Cirque phantasmagoria of jaw-dropping physical feats and eye-popping visuals, "AXEL" -- through Sunday, Jan. 5, at Little Caesars Arena -- establishes itself in opening minutes with the title character's pet Steel, a futuristic canine puppet nimbly propelled by Caroline Bernier-Dionne. Steel sets the tone and endears itself by chasing a ball and a spotlight and coming off the ice to pose for selfies in the seats. As a recurring character throughout the two-act show, Steel (and, yes, there's a toy replica at the souvenir stands) is as much a guide to the action as Axel himself and, frankly, even more engaging.



And Steel certainly has a world to take us through. There is a "narrative" to "AXEL" as the lead character (Jayden Sierra), a musician and sketch artist, is guided on a journey through a murky underworld, chasing a literal light of inspiration while wooing Lei (Miyu Nakashio) and battling the villainous Vi (Paul Wood as a Liberace/David Bowie/Liberace polyglot) and his Corporation. But also as in most Cirque productions, the story is a framework for skaters and acrobats and their wondrous acts, set amidst an extensive array of on-ice art projects and live music that includes new treatments of Tears For Fears' "Mad World," Radiohead's "Creep" and the Bee Gees' "You Should Be Dancing."



The skating in particular makes the Olympics competitions look like a normal day at the local rink -- particularly the "Zoolander" style "Gala & Underworld" that featured on skater spinning his female partner on his head as he circles the ice and the "Masters Challenge" that combines skaters and overhead aerialists. Viacheslav Pereviazko is stunning on the balance ladder during "Starman," while a Russian Swing team soars and leapt into a long fabric for "Sky."



The ensemble "We Are Made of Stars," meanwhile, has all the trapping of a truly grand finale -- until "Leap of Faith" and its bungee trapeze act flying above while Axel raps House of Pain's "Jump Around."



The idea of Cirque du Soleil on ice still sounds like a bit of a joke, but like "Crystal" before it, "AXEL" proves it's a fine fit and insures we'll never look at Disney on Ice or even international figure skating competitions the same way again.



"AXEL" runs through Sunday, Jan. 5, at Little Caesars Arena, 2645 Woodward Ave., Detroit. $44 and up. 313-471-7000 or 313Presents.com.

Web Site: www.313Presents.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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