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‘Crystal’ serves up stunts on skates

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Skaters and acrobats join forces in Cirque du Soleil’s “Crystal” at SAP Center in San Jose. (Courtesy Matt Beard/Cirque du Soleil)

As with any Cirque du Soleil production, “Crystal” offers breathtaking feats in an eclectic setting.

Aerialists and acrobats flip and fly, and athletes balance on towers or dazzle with derring-do stunts on poles and ropes. Here, they’re skating, too, in the Canadian entertainment giant’s first foray into the arena/ice-show world.

Yet the show, now in a sold-out run at SAP Center in San Jose, feels more like a mashup of familiar Cirque theatrics and Disney on Ice elements than the “breakthrough ice experience” of its billing.

As typical, production values are high and talent is strong.

But the story, about the journey of girl who feels misunderstood, gets lost amid a muddy sound design with hard-to-hear narration and a disjointed score combining both live musicians playing gypsy and folk, and a loud pop soundtrack with songs by Sia, Beyonce and U2.

At the outset, Crystal (versatile Canadian skater/acrobat Nobahar Dadui) falls through the ice, where she encounters an alter-ego (American skater Madeline Stammen).

But the under-the-surface world she enters doesn’t cohere as an amazing place, and her travels register more as a series of odd scenes — she swings on a trapeze bar, skates at a school playground, joins a hockey game (wearing a signature teal Sharks jersey), types in an office cubicle, has a flying romantic interlude — than as a tale of transformation.

Directed by Shana Carroll and Sébastien Soldevila, the show’s most spectacular stunts don’t come until the end of Act 1, during the hockey game, in which extreme skaters speed around the rink and zip up and down ramps, coming dangerously close to smacking into each other. It’s thrilling.

A chair balancing act is among the highlights of “Crystal.” (Courtesy Matt Beard/Cirque du Soleil)

Act 2, in which Crystal is surrounded by workers in business attire, boasts an awesome chair balancing act, and amazing team stunts with swinging poles that stretch to the ceiling.

Some of the more Ice Capades-like skating is amusing: in an intimate second-act scene, four individual skaters tap dance and mug for the audience. And the rotating pinwheel chorus line with the whole cast at the conclusion is a lot of fun.

Yet much of the skating feels low-key, especially compared to Winter Olympics stars recently in the news. On Wednesday, Bay Area Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi was in the audience; it would have been cool to see her on the ice.


REVIEW

Crystal
Presented by Cirque du Soleil
Where: SAP Center, 525 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose
When: 7:30 pm. March 29-30; 12:30, 4 and 7:30 p.m. March 31, 1:30 and 5 p.m. April 1
Tickets: $56 to $160 and up
Contact: www.ticketmaster.com

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