I’ve always been a fan of ice-skating. There’s just something so exquisite, captivating, and majestic about figure skating. So, when I heard about Cirque Du Soleil’s CRYSTAL, the first ever Cirque Du Soleil on ice, I just had to see what kind of magic they had conjured.
Presented by TEG Live in Australia, and created by Shana Carroll and Sebastien Soldevila, Cirque Du Soleil: CRYSTAL has been dazzling audiences overseas since 2017. Surprisingly, this is the first time it has come to Australia.
In Melbourne, the entire John Cain Arena venue was turned into a winter wonderland. The floor, normally an area for seats or general admission at a concert, was turned into an ice rink. There were bare trees variously scattered that appeared to be made of metal, a lonely wooden park bench, and a large mock ice castle backdrop with many slopes and stairs.
Like every great show, there was a bit of pre-show entertainment and for CRYSTAL, this consisted of cast members happily enjoying their time on the ice while being gleefully snug in their winter clothes and being serenaded (the audience too) by musicians that circled the rink and provided love to every inch of the venue while playing pleasing tunes on the violin, acoustic guitar, accordion, triangle, and the clarinet.
Soon enough, a character appeared with a silver bucket and started throwing snowballs into the audience. They also provided audience members the opportunity to throw snowballs at another cast member, a bumbling clown who had a steel bucket on their head. The way the clown reacted every time an audience member successfully threw a snowball at them was hilarious. It may have seemed easy, but the way these non-traditional circus clowns provided humour to the attentive Melbourne audience was masterful.
When the main event began, audiences were met with a tall red-headed blue dressed heroine named Crystal. I found the duality of the name ‘Crystal’ for both the character and the show to be clever, as ice does indeed look like crystal. Throughout its 125 minutes, patrons were impressed with ice dancing, super-fast almost superhero like juggling, a gorgeous little romantic scene between a clown and a lamp post, extreme ice-skating with high leaps and impressive tricks, acrobatics on a high swing, and a death-defying balancing act above a tower of chairs that had me hanging on the edge of my seat and holding my breath.
My favourite moment of Cirque Du Soleil’s CRYSTAL, however, was the stunning performance between a talented acrobat on aerial straps and our Crystal. The choreography was amazing, the aerialist appearing to gracefully walk on air, and without words, the pair helped tell a heart aching tale of an otherworldly love. It was so beautiful, I believe that none of my words can justify how wonderful this performance was. Both the emotions and performance were only enhanced when accompanied by a cover of the Ryan Tedder penned Beyoncé famed ballad, ‘Halo’. I would honestly see this show again for this performance alone.
While all the performances were mesmerising and fantastic, I found the narration and the plot to be quite confusing. I assumed Cirque Du Soleil’s CRYSTAL was an Alice In Wonderland style story. Sensationally clever was the execution of the beginning of Crystal’s journey which had our main character falling through ice into another world, displayed by clever projection on the ice and an aerial artist also playing Crystal falling from the ceiling. This was as much as I understood.
At times throughout the show, I found what the narrative voice was saying only puzzled me further from what was happing on the ice. It felt like these words were often just said for the sake of being spoken. At one point, I even wondered why there were four different Crystals skating together. Apart from showcasing that the role had been played by multiple cast members, story wise, I didn’t understand why there were four of them.
While I enjoyed the live music which helped bring joy, humour, and suspense to each scene. I felt that this was slightly undone by the singing in the show being a recording. Cirque Du Soleil’s CRYSTAL would have only benefitted from having a live singer perform alongside the already present musicians in its cast.
If you can forgive the incohesive storyline and focus on the talented and almost super-human performers, you’re going to have the best time. Cirque Du Soleil’s CRYSTAL is spectacular, interactive, is their first ever show on ice that’s worth raving about, and is honestly my favourite Cirque Du Soleil production yet.
Cirque Du Soleil’s CRYSTAL is now playing at Melbourne’s John Cain Arena until August 27. It then heads to Adelaide Entertainment Centre from August 31th to September 3rd, and ends its Australian leg at Perth Arena playing from September 15th to 24th 2023.
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Photography by Matt Baker and Olivier Brajon.