BWW Review: CIRQUE DU SOLEIL CRYSTAL at Comerica Center
On a balmy 70 degree summer day in a northern Texas suburb, Cirque du Soleil made an effort to bring a winter wonderland to life with Crystal. Billed to be the first Cirque production on ice combining "high-level ice skating" with its idiosyncratic circus fare, I regrettably report that this production was two revolutions short of a triple lutz.
To begin this review, I feel it necessary to pen a letter of grievance to the host city of this event:
City of Frisco, if you're going to usher in a performance group with a reputation as grand as Cirque, you might want to ensure that you have the necessary resources to do so. The traffic and parking situation for The Comerica Center was a waking nightmare on Thursday June 13th. The two event garages available were bombarded directly after rush-hour with patrons for both the Cirque tour as well as the Rough Riders Minor League Baseball game 100 feet away. One would think with the Star across the street, Dr. Pepper Ballpark, and Toyota Stadium, Frisco probably gives considerable attention to traffic routing and ample parking for events. If you're going to pursue making this a destination city for artistic companies, you may want to give them the same consideration that you do for large sporting events.
The Comerica Center ushers were also an issue, merely giving a general direction to seating with no guidance regarding rows or sides. Scads of audience members were left to stumble among dark risers to find their assigned placement. As several hundred patrons were wading in late through the parking fray, it led for a very distracting opening number. This cannot be blamed entirely on the facility, as the Stage Manager for Cirque should have taken a pulse-point of the facility's capacity and held the curtain for a few additional minutes to allow guests to settle. Unfortunately for the cast, the distraction may have aided in, or been a welcome respite from attention paid to, their multitudes of first act faux pas. This performance was by far the least polished of the Cirque shows I've seen. A shadow of most mystical Cirque Productions, this one left me wrought with anxiety as I expected the next fall or flub. The first number alone had three skaters blatantly stumble to the ice amid other countless bobbles. Many of the ensemble performers looked under-rehearsed and shaken. If the ramps were created from artificial ice, the texture difference would be rather shocking and could be the catalyst for the foibles in footing. However, one almost had to wonder if this arena was too small concerning the grand scale pieces choreographed for Crystal. Numerous near misses ensued during the pairs ice dancing, and I noted unsure glances between the skaters as they deftly rerouted to avoid collision. This is particularly disheartening as Cirque is always so mindful of safety techniques when creating their productions-it stands to reason that they should employ extra precautions when the actors are performing with daggers on their feet.
As with most Cirque du Soleil productions, this piece followed a lose plot line to weave the different acts into one cohesive arc. A youthful redhead skater is the main focal point of this tale. Her fantasy world springs to life at the use of her pen, writing stories and doodling to bring about a myriad of playful characters. Each new character presents a new scene from the playful park hockey players to the stern office working regime. The story line is reminiscent of Matilda in the beginning, with a TV addicted family losing sight of the precocious imaginative youngster. From an artistic standpoint, the composition of their original score pieces like Kurios or a thematic underscoring like the Beatles Love show is a stronger canvas for the visual feats. Crystal incorporated both the use of the colloquial pop songs in conjunction with the original tracks, which was jarring and completely pulled the focus from the acrobatics on the ice as those in the stands were inclined to be-bop along with the interspersed hits. Crystal's second act was far cleaner and back to their roots including pole climbers, trapeze artists, and chair stacking gymnasts defying physics. But the audience was on the edge of their seats for all the wrong reasons, and I noted several people leaving early to avoid the traffic. Redeeming qualities of this production were the quintessential elements that Cirque always continues to do well: delight audiences with their comedia del arte style clowning. The break-dancing hockey goalie bearing resemblance to Gev Manoukian's blended style of B-Boy ice skating was by far a standout. A hobo-style clown with his broken cart and street lamp turned dance partner was also an audience favorite.
Cirque advertises "Watch world-class ice skaters and acrobats claim their new frozen playground with speed and fluidity as they challenge laws of gravity with never-before-seen acrobatics. A new kind of performance as Cirque du Soleil meets ice to defy all expectations. Cirque du Soleil Crystal - A Breakthrough Ice Experience is an exhilarating journey of speed, wonder and discovery." But to put it succinctly the opinion of this reviewer is if you're going to spend good money on seeing a Cirque du Soleil production skip this one and hope that Amaluna comes back.
To purchase tickets for an upcoming showing of Crystal, ticket information is provided at https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/crystal.