Given the superhuman actions that make up the bulk of even the least of the Cirque du Soleil touring shows, I’ve always felt a bit guilty feeling bored by them.
Not entirely bored. Much of the time watching them, I am in awe. Occasionally, I’ve been knocked out by the visual poetry.
But there seems to always be a spot somewhere in the middle of the second act when the last thread of an already thin narrative gets tossed aside, someone is doing a one-handed handstand on another fella’s forehead or some such, and the wonder somehow drains.
It’s possible, I’ve learned, to be over-amazed.
I’m happy to report that that didn’t happen in “Crystal,” Cirque’s ice rink-anchored show that visited Bankers Life Fieldhouse (July 24-28).
With elements of “The Wizard of Oz,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “Rollerball” (yes, “Rollerball”) “Crystal” loosely follows a dissatisfied young woman who falls through a crack in the ice into a world of, well, Cirque acts and psychobabble.
There’s joyous juggling to klezmer music, a hockey-ish match where ramps send players into the air while Irish tunes blast, a briefcase brigade, and poll climbers and chair stackers who effective do what seems impossible–and then raise the stakes even higher.
There’s also some incoherent stuff about a magic pen. And narration that seems to come from the Marianne Williamson’s playbook (“My thoughts become their actions. I can write my own joy…”).
There’s a beautifully choreographed duet that, well, just check out this image…
It’s only marred by its song choice. While the music to “Halo” fits well with the highlight of the show, the English language lyrics took part of the magic and mystery away for me. I prefer Cirque when it speaks in its own voice, one that seems to exist only within the confines of the world the show creates.
Song choice proved even more problematic earlier in the show when Sia’s “Chandelier” added a clearly unintended meaning. Were we really to believe our heroine was binge drinking under the ice?
Mixed messages aside, though, “Crystal” moves with grace and good humor. It keeps the visuals surprising and interesting and the ice floor helps give it a smooth otherworldliness that other Cirque tours have lacked.
Committed performances help, too. Also unlike other Cirque shows, I never felt like the talent was just an act dropped into the show. The performers seemed truly engaged, not just showing off their remarkable skills.
The teen boys behind me were having a blast. So was I.