At any Cirque du Soleil show, there are plenty of GASP! moments. Things that make you shake your head in wonder, things that make you squirm in your seat.
With Cirque du Soleil’s latest show, “Crystal,” there’s an additional tricky element: Some of the performers wear sharpened knives on their feet, and the entire show is performed on a sheet of ice.
“Crystal,” which runs through Sunday at the Spokane Arena, is Cirque’s take on the Ice Capades: It’s a bit surreal, gorgeously produced and choreographed, and thoroughly entertaining.
The crowd on opening night Wednesday followed along as Crystal, an eccentric young woman who struggles to fit in, goes skating and falls through ice. She finds herself in a world of her imagination, where she encounters a mirror reflection of herself, a kindly clown, shadow versions of her family, odd businesspeople, musicians, gymnasts and acrobats who help her face her own reality and break through the ice back into the world.
It’s esoteric, sure, but the storyline helps the various set pieces hang together as as whole. And the set pieces are impressive.
The end of Act I, the hockey game, with players flying over ramps like Tony Hawk at a skateboard park, was an astonishing bit of ice theater. (And old-time hockey fans will love this Canadian troupe’s nifty shout-out to Wayne Gretzky, as one of the players wears 99 on his jersey.)
Then there’s the ballroom number in Act II, when Crystal and a suitor perform a gorgeous aerial pas de deux. He descends from the rafters hanging on to two aerial silks, she jumps up and together they swing and twirl and dance midair. It’s an astonishing display of beauty and sheer strength.
There are so many highlights. Four businesspeople engage in a skate-off, to the delight of Crystal and the audience. There’s the acrobat who stacks up two tables and four chairs and balances atop it all – one-handed – while bending in ways people don’t normally bend.
And then there’s the clown, who pops in at just the right moment to toss a snowball into the crowd, to perform an outrageous pratfall or to go head to head with a skilled juggler.
While the performers are impressive and talented, the production itself is top notch. When the ice “cracks,” with the help of light projection, it looks really cool. The music, much of it performed live, expertly sets the mood. The costumes are clever, and the huge rock-like backdrop is well designed to serve many purposes.
“Crystal” may be Cirque’s first ice show, but it feels like a classic already.