Cirque du Soleil brought their latest awe-inspiring incarnation called AXEL to the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday, February 6, 2020 for the first of six highly anticipated shows scheduled to run through the weekend with matinee and evening performances taking place on both Saturday and Sunday.
In full disclosure I perused some previous reviews on the web's largest ticket selling site. The most recurring complaint discovered about this modern fantasy on ice from the Circus of the Sun was that the storyline was "hard to follow". So, let me simplify it for you. AXEL is a traditional tale of boy meets girl. Just at the precise moment when love begins to blossom between the young couple a heinous snake man steals the pretty female lead's soul with the help from an army of tyrannical reptilian overlords.
From there, the rest of the two-hour production with twenty-minute intermission was all about restoring her lost light through a series of battles and conflicts that played out on and over the ice by Cirque's famed crew of talented and acrobatic athletes. Fans old and young alike were equally entranced as vendors did a swift business in reasonably priced cotton candy ($4) and more expensive light up memorabilia that added to the overall theme of circus type fun.
In a number of separate thematic acts the cast presented many high caliber skating scenes including a pair of space age clowns acting menacingly while maneuvering around the ice on custom made stilts with blades on the bottom. Another bit used lighted ice and projection to create a figure eight race track. The impromptu course was soon being shared by Cirque's version of large scale radio-controlled cars and cast members who had to work hard to dodge the vehicles in order to avoid colliding with the multi-colored crafts.
Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil.
If there was any doubt that Cirque du Soleil was still delivering the goods they were quelled by the repeated audible exclamations of shock and disbelief that rose up from the arena's packed first tier. This crowd reaction was most notable when two female gymnasts sharing a multi-ringed hi wire apparatus precariously hung from the base of their skulls dozens of feet above the Predators' home ice.
A female ribbon dancer's routine was equally engaging and death defying. Another favorite feat was when a crew of male gymnasts propelled themselves through the air from a giant swinging see-saw most of the time gracefully landing in a floor to ceiling net that show hands seamlessly raised on the fly in front of them.
The tale of AXEL was accentuated with songs performed by the male lead and a live band who were an active part of the show. Contemporary covers of "Creep" and "Mad World" literally helped set the stage and proved that the musical portion of the crew were on par with the other stars of the show. Even if Cirque du Soleil's current event was a tad fantastical and otherworldy the capable musical portion of the night helped the production seem right at home in Music City.
There were no opening night jitters in Nashville as the talented troupe revealed themselves to be in top shape and flawless form even in the difficult format presented by the slippery icy surface. Throughout the night we counted maybe one minor stumble allowing us to present a final score of 9.5 out of 10. Fans and critics alike will have many more opportunities to judge the presenters as AXEL will spend much of the rest of the year setting up shop across North America and Canada. Next stop is Greenville, South Carolina.
For more information on AXEL and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links --