NEWARK, NJ — Cirque du Soleil’s show “Crystal” at the Prudential Center in Newark was fun from beginning to end — the fun even began before the show started, with a clown espousing the show’s wintry theme and starting snowball fights with audience members.
“Crystal,” which opened in Newark on Thursday, June 16, and runs until Sunday, June 19, with five performances in all, is a unique blend of circus art and ice skating, a delightful mix of beauty, excitement and silliness.
Directed by Shana Carroll and Sebastien Soldevila, Crystal, the show’s misfit heroine, takes the audience on a journey of self-discovery after she falls through the ice into a world of her own imagination. While the main character has long felt like the proverbial ugly duckling, she discovers throughout the show that she is perfect just the way she is, embracing her newfound confidence, curiosity and creativity.
The talented cast and crew of “Crystal” brought this story to life by combining several art and athletic forms, including a mix of live and recorded music, figure and speed skating, acrobatics and aerial dancing, multimedia projections and perfectly timed lights, and so much more.
The highlight of the show, which is two and a half hours long with a 20-minute intermission, was the dance between Crystal on ice skates and a love interest on aerial silks. As he glided through the air, she glided over the ice and the two would come together for spectacular lifts. It was a flawless and stunning display, causing a hush to fall over the audience. While the clown dancing with the lamppost earlier in the show may have caused some romantics’ hearts to beat faster — and much laughter, as was intended — this display of raw power and emotion proved to be a heartstopping number, expertly performed to a cover of “Halo,” by Beyonce.
In addition to performing to the hit Beyonce number, the show also paired a gravity-defying trapeze act with a cover of “Chandelier,” by Sia, and an ice skating display with a rendition of “Sinnerman,” the song made popular by Nina Simone. Music was also expertly performed by a trio of musicians, who took on several instruments. A seriously impressive sight: a sax man gliding across the ice on skates while playing his saxophone.
Among many acclamations, “gravity-defying” is indeed the hyphenate of choice for this show. From just the intriguing visual of one of the Crystals — there were several, each adding something different to the show, whether it was spins on the ice or flips through the air — sitting at a desk that was on a wall rather than the floor, to ice skaters jumping high into the air from ramps and landing back down on the ice after doing flips, the audience was consistently gasping and applauding.
One of the neatest gravity-defying components to the show was when Crystal fell through the ice. While the lighting made it appear that the ice beneath the ice skater’s feet was cracking, high above a second Crystal was in a harness getting ready to “fall.” As she slowly fell, the performing space was filled with an ethereal atmosphere, made from a combination of “underwater” lighting, soft and slightly muffled music, and the performer who truly made it look like she was falling through water even though she was high up in the air.
Just as lighting and music contributed greatly to the atmosphere, it would be remiss not to mention the sets. While the sets didn’t appear complex, the grace and precision with which they were each placed are what made this show possible. A ramp facing slightly off or a chair tilted the wrong way could have caused some serious issues. But nothing went amiss.
And while the show was indeed beautiful, it still had a circus feel — and not just because of the clown who got many hearty guffaws throughout the show. There was a certain whimsy and giddiness to several of the acts, which broke the tension after more intense acts, such as those of the pole climbers and figure skating duos.
This show is suitable for all ages. For additional show details and to purchase tickets, visit https://prucenter.com/events/cirque-du-soleil. If you can’t make it to one of the shows in Newark, it is definitely worth driving down to Philadelphia, Pa., where the show will be staged at the Wells Fargo Center from June 24 through 26; for more information, visit https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/crystal.
High expectations were had for this show and those expectations were exceeded. “Crystal” was a glorious mix of classic circus art and first-rate ice skating.