On Stage: Cirque’s Crystal debuts at Wells Fargo Center

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


Over the years, the huge arenas in the South Philly sports complex have hosted a number of Cirque du Soleil extravaganzas and many ice spectacles such as Disney On Ice and Ice Capades.

This week, the Wells Fargo Center (3601 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, www.wellsfargocenterphilly.com) will host a show that is a combination of both – Cirque du Soleil’s new production “Crystal.”

“Crystal” is not just an ice show, it’s the very first experience on ice from Cirque du Soleil.

Audiences will be able to watch world-class ice skaters and acrobats claim their new frozen playground with speed and fluidity as they challenge the laws of gravity with never-before-seen acrobatics. A new kind of performance as Cirque du Soleil meets the ice to defy all expectations.
Directed by Shana Carroll and Sebastien Soldevila, Crystal, the show’s misfit heroine, takes the audience on an exhilarating tale of self-discovery as she dives into a world of her own imagination. Audience members can feel the adrenaline as she soars through this surreal world to become what she was always destined to be — confident, curious, and creative.

“Crystal” features astounding visual projections and a soundtrack that seamlessly blends popular music with the signature sound of Cirque du Soleil.

Cirque du Soleil’s new spectacular features an international cast featuring acrobats, musicians and comic characters along with multi-talented skaters. Gymnasts and skaters perform acrobatics on the ice and in the air, combining the two disciplines together.

Synchronized skating, freestyle figures, and extreme skating are featured alongside circus disciplines such as swinging trapeze, aerial straps, and hand-to-hand balancing.

Figure skaters learned how to be pushers on Chinese Poles and perform aerial stunts, circus artists had to learn how to skate, and extreme skaters had to learn figure skating moves.

The storyline focuses on a young girl named Crystal. Crystal is an eccentric young woman with a charming quirkiness and a restless imagination.

Crystal is a misfit with her head in the clouds — a dreamer looking for something more in her life. One day, feeling misunderstood and out of sync with the world, she ventures out on a frozen pond and falls through the ice. In this underwater world of her own imagination, she has a vision. She sees a reflection of herself – her alter ego – that guides her, showing her a distorted version of her life.

Crystal’s reflection is Crystal’s shadow self – a dark yet helpful side of her personality that enables her to access her strengths and creativity. The shadow Crystal carries inside her – which usually appears as a separate, distinct entity in the underwater world – is more mischievous and headstrong than she is, encouraging her to take control of her life. The Shadows represent the forces within her subconscious mind that pull all the strings of her life, either helping her along or hindering her progress.

Feeling misunderstood in her everyday life, she ultimately finds her footing and turns her quirks into a creative force, radically changing her own narrative through her writing. Her Reflection tries to wake her up to her own genius and creativity. It gives her a pen, and she begins to find her voice with it.

Through her writing, Crystal releases the potential of her hidden talent and transforms the world around her with stroke of her pen. Having summoned the strength to face reality, Crystal ultimately breaks through the ice, stronger than ever.

In this show, Crystal is looking at things from fresh angles, peeking through the veneer of everyday life, reframing one’s daily reality to see what one might have missed. Sometimes the only way to appreciate things is to look at them sideways. Discovering one’s individuality and uniqueness requires venturing out on thin ice.

Silja Dos Reis, who was a top-flight competitor in amateur skating prior to joining the show, performs the role of Crystal

“Crystal feels that she can’t fit in with the world she’s living in,” said Dos Reis, during a recent phone interview. “Once she falls through the ice, her view of the world changes and she becomes more positive about her life.”

Dos Reis, who is from Paris, started ballet as a tiny child and then switched to competitive ice skating. She competed solo initially and then in pairs competition until she was 20.

“I’ve been with Cirque du Soleil for about two years,” said Dos Reis. “I stopped competitive skating when I was 20. I knew that I wanted to do ice shows.”

“I saw that they were creating a show in ice. Being a skater, I sent them a video. I was living in Paris at the time. They asked for some more videos. Then, the creative period was used to determine if I was a match. The show was created in Montreal.

“There are two skaters doing Crystal in the show. We usually have seven shows a week, so we rotate – one week I do four and she does three and the next week she does four and I do three.

“The show’s creators did not change much but they found a way for healthy rotation for performers, so we don’t overuse a particular part of the body. After doing a few months, it can be very demanding – shows, rehearsals and tricks.

Dos Reis quickly learned that there was a big difference between performing and competing.

“In competition, it’s about skills and competing,” said Dos Reis. “I love pairs skating – especially lifts. With Cirque du Soleil, high skills aren’t important if they don’t look good. Competition was harder. This is more fun.

“Skating people and acrobatics people both enjoy this show. It matches very well. I love that exchange with acrobats. Skating gives it speed and wow effect. And, people really like the story.”

Video link for Cirque du Soleil’s “Crystal” — https://youtu.be/Ig2gKhoGbDk.

The show at the Wells Fargo Center will run from June 20-23. Ticket prices range from $45-$149.

“Crystal” will also have a five-day run in Allentown next week from June 26-30 at the PPL Center (701 Hamilton Street, Allentown, www.pplcenter.com).

Wali Collins

Wali Collins, who will headline the Candlelight Comedy Club (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) on June 20, took one of the standard and time-honored paths to become a stand-up comedian – getting a degree in architecture.

“I had studied architecture at Wentworth College in Boston,” said Collins, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in Harlem. “I was an architect designing buildings.

“One day, I was having a conversation with my mom and she said – if you could be anything you want to be what would it be?

“I said I wanted to be an actor. But I was living in Springfield, Massachusetts and nobody famous ever came from Springfield. My mom encouraged me to follow my dream.

“I decided to try stand-up comedy and parlay that into an acting career.  I found a venue about 30 miles away – the Hot-l Warren in Deerfied, Massachusetts.

“I did a routine and thought I had bombed. The club manager told me that I had the gift. He said I had great stage presence and that it was something you can’t teach or learn. He asked me to come back again the following week. That was the start of it all.

“I started MCing comedy shows in my area. I spread out to Boston and Boston showed me love. I got a manager and then moved to New York City to work on a show for Comedy Central called “Stand-up Stand-up”.

On “Stand-up Stand-up,” Collins spent two seasons hosting the largest, funniest, most varied collection of stand-up comedians in the world.

“In the early 90s, I was burning the candle at both ends,” said Collins. “I had to make a decision between comedy and architecture. Comedy was just so much more gratifying.”

Since then, Collins has been a regular at all of the mainstream comedy clubs in the United States including New York City and Los Angeles and even headlines and tours at comedy clubs in Europe and Asia.

His television credits include NBC, CBS, FOX, HBO, ABC, VH1, Comedy Central, Netflix, and Hulu. David Letterman caught his act and later Collins performed his stand up on the “Late Show with David Letterman”.

“I do a lot of touring playing clubs and colleges,” said Collins, who was nominated three years in a row as “College Campus Entertainer of the Year.”

“When I first started out, I was a raunchy, blue comic. The first time my mother saw me perform, she fainted. My father was a Marine Drill Instructor. They asked me to not curse in my show and I haven’t since that night.

“My material is clean but clever. It’s first-person observational. I talk about life – life through my lens. I talk about being married, living in New York and about my family.”

Collins also has had roles in films like independent feature, “Submission,” starring Stanley Tucci, Chris Rock’s “Top Five” and the cult classic, “Coyote Ugly.” He also is featured in the hit Netflix series, “The Get Down,” Hulu’s “Difficult People” and the Oxygen Network series, “Crazy Love.”

Regarding famous people from Springfield, Massachusetts, Collins joins a roster that includes writer/illustrator Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Suess), actor Kurt Russell, wrestler John Cena, artist James Whistler, folk legend Johnny Appleseed and actress Chloë Sevigny. Springfield is also the city where basketball was invented in 1891 by James Naismith.

Video link for Wali Collins — https://youtu.be/9fcG6HZysJI.

The show at the Candlelight will also feature LaTice as the opening act and Jason Pollock as the host. Doors open at 6:30. Tickets, which include a complimentary light fare buffet, are $30.

The Candlelight Theatre will also have its final weekend of “Lend Me A Tenor” with evening performances on June 21 and 22 and a matinee show on June 23.

Ask a fan of metal music to name the hotbeds of metal and hardcore music and the answer will usually start with Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Germany. The most frequently named American hot spots would probably be Atlanta, Dallas, Little Rock, Baltimore, Richmond, New Orleans and Tampa – all cities from below the Mason-Dixon Line. The list would probably include a few northern cities such as Portland (Oregon), San Francisco, Chicago and Brooklyn.

Lancaster isn’t a likely contender for Top 10 placement on any metalhead’s list.

August Burns Red

But that hasn’t kept August Burns Red, a Lancaster-based metalcore band, from becoming one of America’s favorite purveyors of metal music. The band, which actually traces its roots to Manheim Township, has been together for 16 years and has released eight strong-selling albums.

One of August Burns Red’s most popular albums was “Constellations,” which was released in 2009 on Solid State Records.

This summer, August Burns Red is celebrating the classic album with its “Constellations 10-Year Anniversary World Tour.” The band embarks on the two-month stateside portion of the tour on June 20 with a hometown show at the Chameleon Club (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, 717-299-9684, http://www.chameleonclub.net).

The North American leg of the tour runs through August 11 in New York City. The band will then travel to Australia in October and to Europe in November and December.

The Grammy® Award-nominated quintet features John Benjamin “JB” Brubaker – lead guitar; Brent Rambler − rhythm guitar; Matt Greiner − drums, percussion; Jake Luhrs − lead vocals; and Dustin Davidson − bass, backing vocals, keyboards, piano.

“We’re home rehearsing today and tomorrow – doing pre-production for the tour,” said Greiner, during a phone interview Tuesday morning from his home in Lancaster County.

“Our first show is at the Chameleon – which we first played when we were very young — and then we’re off on a long tour. It’s rolling along at a fast pace. We’ve been planning this tour for over a year and rehearsing for over two months.

“Our most recent record was ‘Phantom Anthem’ in 2017. We’re starting work on our next album soon and anticipating a 2010 release.”

But before that happens, the hardcore quintet has about 70 shows to play around the world. This tour will be the band’s second tour in celebration of an album’s 10th anniversary.

“Two years ago, we did a 10th anniversary tour for our ‘Messengers’ album and that went really well,” said Greiner, who co-founded the band with Brubaker and Rambler.

“We released ‘Constellations’ in 2009. It was one of our biggest albums. Fans who came to shows back when it was released now have to get babysitters and come to these shows.

“Like them, life has changed a lot in our personal lives. Two of us are married with one son. I’m single and the other two are dating. I recently bought into my dad’s 140-acre farm. I own 70 acres – 50 of which are tillable. Right now, I’m farming corn and soybeans.”

What goes around comes around.

“I grew up on this farm and lived on this farm,” said Greiner. “August Burns Red actually started on this farm more than 15 years ago.”

August Burns Red was founded in March 2003 when all the members were attending high school. The original practice sessions of the band began in Greiner’s old egg house and basement on the Greiner family’s farmland.

The band’s debut album was “Thrillseekers” in 2005 followed by “Messengers” in 2007 and “Constellations” in 2009.

“With this tour of the ‘Constellations’ album, we learned each part the way it was written initially,” said Greiner. “We added more instrumentation on one track, but all the other parts are identical. We play the songs in order – 1 through 13.

“We start with a one-minute intro and then go right into ‘Thirty and Seven.’ At the end of the album’s songs, we walk off and then come back with a drum solo and four additional songs – one each from ‘Phantom Anthem,’ ‘Leveler,’ ‘Messengers,’ and ‘Rescue & Restore.’”

Video link for August Burns Red – https://youtu.be/Js-NOC1kPmU.

The show at the Chameleon, which has Silverstein, Ultraviolent and Silent Planet as opening acts, will start at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $30.

Other upcoming shows at the Chameleon are Cadillac Three on June 21 and Parklife on June 22.

August Burns Red will also bring its “Constellations 10-Year Anniversary World Tour” to The Fillmore in Philadelphia on August 9.

Songs From The Road

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Songs From The Road on June 21 and Vinyl Artifact on June 21.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host 4Shadow & Liquid 11 on June 22.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present The Machine on June 20, Electron on June 21, Justin Courtney Pierre with special guest Forever Came Calling on June 22, Jeffrey Gaines and Ben Arnold with special guest Matt Santry on June 23 and Kiefer Sutherland on June 26.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Get The Led Out on June 21 and 22.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will present Professor Louie & The Crowmatix With The Woodstock Horns on June 20, Simply Three on June 21, Awaken (Yes Tribute) on June 22, The Music Of John Denver Performed By Ted Vigil on June 23, The Sweet Remains on June 23, and Geoff Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime on June 25.

The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com) will have Rod Melancon with special guests Evan Bartels, and Dee White on June 21.

The Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 202-730-3331, www.thequeenwilmington.com) will host Norah Jones on June 22.

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