It’s been a while since Cirque du Soleil was in North Carolina, thanks to House Bill 2, the so-called “Bathroom Bill” that prompted the company to cancel performances in Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte in 2016.
But Cirque is back this month with “CRYSTAL,” which is the first time the 34-year-old Montreal-based company has taken to the ice.
1. It ain’t “Ice Capades.”
“Oh, it’s very different from that,” said Madeline Stammen, 24, a skater/actress who plays the title role. “When we were creating the show, we definitely wanted to do something that wasn’t ‘Ice Capades.’ It’s just as much acrobatics as skating, a blend of both disciplines.”
To that end, “CRYSTAL” has a fairly elaborate storyline that takes the title character into “a world of self-exploration,” said Cirque du Soleil tour publicist Julie Desmarais.
“After venturing onto a frozen pond, Crystal dives into an imaginary world and meets various characters who guide her,” said Desmarais. “She meets her Reflection, who helps her retrieve the strength she does not know she has within herself. As she meets these other characters, she becomes a confident and strong young lady.”
2. It demands versatility from the cast.
Stammen earned her spot in “CRYSTAL” through a casting notice that Cirque du Soleil posted on social media. But since the beginning of the tour, she has gone from playing one major character to another.
“There’s Crystal, and Reflection,” said Stammen. “Once Crystal falls through the ice, she meets her own Reflection beneath the surface. I was originally cast as Reflection. But the original Crystal was injured, so I’m playing her now.”
Cirque being Cirque, “CRYSTAL” is a physically demanding show for its cast to pull off, so it’s not surprising that it’s primarily younger. But it does have some skaters in the show who are in their mid-40s.
3. Some cast members had to learn skating.
While Stammen has a background in competitive skating (which she began at age 8), “CRYSTAL” acrobat Lkhagva-Ochir had never been on the ice before. He had to learn from scratch.
“I did not know how to skate before this, and it was so hard,” said Ochir, a 30-year-old native of Mongolia. “I usually work my upper body, and skating is in the legs. It’s totally different from my usual discipline.”
Ochir is renowned for his handstands and balancing routines, often involving multiple chairs. Some of his stunts are highlights of the show.
4. It’s not yet clear if “CRYSTAL” will become one of Cirque’s ongoing recurrent shows.
“CRYSTAL” is currently booked through the end of 2018 and will probably play North America for another year and a half before traveling abroad.
“This is Cirque’s first on-ice show,” said Desmarais, “and I think it’s proven that Cirque du Soleil can be brought to the ice.”
What: Cirque du Soleil presents “CRYSTAL: A Breakthrough Ice Experience”
When: Aug. 15-19
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh
Information: 919-861-2300 or thepncarena.com