Friday, November 17, 2017

REVIEW: Cirque du Soleil's Crystal: Ice Circus Experience

We got a chance to see Crystal, Cirque du Soleil's latest arena show, which is here in Chicago (actually Hoffman Estates) on a short run through November 19. I saw the opening night on November 16, and wanted to rush this review out because it's a really fun show, and well worth seeing, especially if you like ice shows.

I have to warn you though:  this is not an ice show for babies.  This isn't Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck have a great time on ice.  This show has moments of darkness and light, and some relatively adult themes (nothing too adult, but there's a few monologues about being alone, and there's a couple of moments where it looks like Hell on Ice might start to unfold.  It never actually happens, but it feels like it might, and those are some of the best moments in the show.)

The show starts with a very fun pre-show.  The stage is set, and hockey players are messing around on the ice, the clown is encouraging people to throw snowballs at him, there's a couple flirting on the ice.  It's a small town in Canada or New England where the local skating pond is the center of attention.  Then the show starts, the lights dim, and the structure in the back of the ice rink lights up, and displays a computerized slide show that shows off our protagonist Crystal. 

Her parents are yelling at her, her friends are making fun of her, and she needs to get away and go for a nice long skate.  She is out on the ice when the unthinkable happens.  In a startling visual effect, the ice cracks, and like an ice skating Alice in Wonderland she descends into the world beneath the ice.

The clown in the audience during pre-show.
It's a great concept, and if they could have kept that story going, and showed us what the underwater world was really like, and kept it up, it would have been outstanding.  But like most Cirque shows, the plot gets a little murky and unclear as the circus acts take over, and the story goes out the window.

As always the set is wonderful, and the circus acts are great.  Circus acts take on a new meaning of bravura when they take place over frozen water, and every acrobat and performer is a superb skater and it shows. A special shout-out to the swinging poles act, which is a pole act that sort of becomes a flying trapeze act in the middle, as the poles swing to each other and the acrobats vault to the pole.

 I was also really taken with the hockey routine, in which 4 or 5 ice skating acrobats do skateboard-like tricks on skates, getting 10-15 feet of air on ramps as they jump up and do all sorts of impossible flips and stunts on ice.  There's also a really nice juggling act, a breakaway ice bike,  lots of hand-balancing and aerial work, and a live band that plays an eclectic range of music.

The following photos were provided by Cirque du Soleil and were taken by photographer Mathew Beard.

One interesting thing about this show is that they used a lot of text and songs with discernible lyrics in the show.  It did set a tone and make the play a little clearer, but not as much as you would think.  Still, after seeing a whole bunch of Cirque shows, it was interesting to see this one take a different tact.  (This was my second Cirque show this week, having seen La Nouba in Orlando last week!  #circuseverydamnweek!)

The show is performing in the Sears Arena in Hoffman Estates.  It's a little bit of a hike from Chicago, and lots of the shows are right after rush hour, so you should leave early. It took us a little over an hour to get there (and I live in the north of Chicago, and it's supposedly 29 miles from my house) There's a shopping mall nearby with plenty of eating choices.


Tickets start at $30.  To purchase tickets, visit the Cirque site

After the Chicago dates, the show will tour Canada and the US for at least the next 6 months.

Here's a list of cities and dates where Crystal is coming.
(always subject to change)

Hoffman Estates, IL Sears Centre Arena Nov 16-19, 2017

Worcester, MA DCU Center Dec 7-10, 2017

Quebec, QC Centre Vidéotron  Dec 13-17, 2017

Montreal, QC Centre Bell Dec 20-31, 2017

Windsor, ON WFCU Centre Jan 3-7, 2018

Detroit, MI      Little Caesars Arena Jan 10-14, 2018

Pittsburgh, PA PPG Paints Arena Jan 17-21, 2018

Topeka, KS Kansas Expocentre Jan 24-28, 2018

Colorado Springs, CO Broadmoor World Arena January 31, 2018 - February 4, 2018

Rio Rancho, NM Santa Ana Star Center Feb 7-11, 2018

Cedar Park, TX H-E-B Center Feb 14-18, 2018

Phoenix, AZ Talking Stick Resort Arena Mar 8-11, 2018

Tucson, AZ Tucson Arena Mar 14-18, 2018

San Diego, CA Valley View Casino Center Mar 21-25, 2018

San Jose, CA SAP Center March 28, 2018 - April 1, 2018

Portland, OR Moda Center Apr 4-8, 2018

Abbotsford, BC Abbotsford Centre Apr 11-15, 2018

Penticton, BC South Okanagan Events Centre Apr 18-22, 2018

Prince George, BC CN Centre Apr 25-29, 2018

Saskatoon, SK SaskTel Centre May 16-20, 2018

Medicine Hat, AB Canalta Centre May 23-27, 2018

Monday, November 6, 2017

Vote For the Toy of the Year!

Are you ready to doll up your hair, get out a tiny red carpet, and start the imaginary Paparazzi's camera bulbs popping?

The Toy Industry Association has recently announced the finalists for the 2018 Toy of the Year Awards. There are a number of categories, including categories new for this year, including Action Figure of the Year, Doll of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and Vehicle of the Year.

Toys are nominated by companies, and there is big business to be had in winning one of these awards, so the companies are duking it out. This year’s finalists were selected from 700 nominees submitted by more than 250 companies of all sizes. They introduced a more rigorous and transparent judging method this year, with 25 judges, including toy and play experts, retailers, academics, and journalists, reviewing and ranking products in specific categories relevant to their areas of expertise. The judges then participated in a live discussion to debate any categories that did not draw an undisputed roster of finalists during the judging period. They considered each product’s creativity, originality and innovation; design and promotion; excellence; and marketplace acceptance before narrowing the field to the slate of finalists.

We have one of the toys nominated! 
Still working on building our Disney Castle!
The winners in each of the 14 categories and the coveted “Toy of the Year” will be selected based on votes from mass and specialty toy retailers, media, TIA members, and consumers. The “People’s Choice” award winner will be selected solely by consumer votes.

That's right, you have a vote in this! to vote, go to and cast your vote by January 15, 2018. The winners will be announced in February at a live gala kicking off Toy Week in New York.

More information about the TOTY voting and selection process can be found in the “About the Awards” section of

Here's the full list of categories and the nominees!

I've linked each one to their Amazon Page.  Please note that the links are affiliate links, so if you end up buying one of these toys from this link, I will make a small commission-- usually a few pennies on the dollar.  It helps keep the lights on and me in lattes.  But please, feel no obligation to purchase, unless your kid is dying for that particular toy, in which, Be My Guest!

Toys that include action figures and their play sets/accessories

DC Super Hero Girls™ Action Figure Assortment by Mattel, Inc.
Fossil Hunter Lottie by Arklu, Ltd.
IAmElemental Series 1/Courage Lunch Box Carrying Case With Complete Set of Action Figures by IAmElemental
PJ Masks Headquarters Playset by Just Play
Pokémon Throw 'n' Pop Poké Ball Duel Set by TOMY
Stikbot by ZING
Transformers Generations Titans Return Fortress Maximus Action Figure by Hasbro, Inc.

Toys that are designed for active/outdoor play

3-in-1 EZ Fold Wagon by Radio Flyer
Air Hogs Helix Sentinel Drone by Spin Master Ltd.
Bunch O Balloons by Zuru
Hot Wheels® Sky Shock™ RC Vehicle by Mattel, Inc.
Nerf N-Strike Modulus Tri-Strike Blaster by Hasbro, Inc.
Sky Viper v2400FPV HD Streaming Drone with FPV Headset by SkyRocket Toys
VEX Robotics Zip Flyer by HEXBUG
Xtreme Cycle Moto-Cam by WickedCoolToys

Arts and crafts, construction and other indoor toys that inspire creative play through various forms of activity

Circuit Scribe Maker Kit by CircuitScribe
Crayola Air Maker Sprayer by Crayola, LLC
K’NEX 3-in-1 Classic Amusement Park Building Set by K’NEX Brands
Lionel Mega Tracks Corkscrew Chaos Master Set by Lionel
Mighty Makers Directors Cut Building Set by K’NEX Brands
Mover Kit by Tech Will Save Us
My Fairy Garden Magical Cottage by Play Monster

Toys that compose a set; can include novelty playthings, miniature versions of existing lines, licensed collectibles, etc.

Dorbz by Funko, LLC
Gift 'ems™ by JAKKS Pacific
LEGO Minifigures - The Disney Edition by LEGO Systems, Inc.
Num Noms by MGA Entertainment
Pop! By Funko, LLC
Shopkins Season 6: Chef Club by Moose Toys Pty Ltd
Tonka Tinys by Funrise

Toys that include building and engineering sets

Arckit Go Colours by ARCKIT
Grippies® Builders by Guidecraft USA Inc.
LEGO Friends Amusement Park Roller Coaster by LEGO Systems, Inc.
Marine Rescue Center by Build & Imagine
Meccano Micronoid by Spin Master Ltd.
Tinkerbots by Tinkerbots
Walking Robot 45PC Set by Magformers, LLC

Toys that include plush, baby, toddler, and fashion dolls, and their play sets/accessories

Barbie® Fashionista™ Doll by Mattel, Inc.
Disney Frozen Northern Lights Elsa by JAKKS Pacific
Elena of Avalor Adventure Dress Doll by Hasbro, Inc.
Project Mc2 Experiments with Doll Sets by MGA Entertainment
Shopkins Core Shoppies by Moose Toys Pty Ltd
Stargazer Lottie Doll by Arklu, Ltd
American Girl® WellieWishers™ by Mattel, Inc.

Children’s board, card, electronic, or other physical game formats or puzzles (does not include video games or apps)

Bloxels™ by Mattel, Inc.
Circuit Maze by ThinkFun Inc.
Escape Room the Game by Spin Master Ltd.
Imhotep by Thames & Kosmos
Maze Racers by FoxMind Games
Simon Air Game by Hasbro, Inc.
Speak Out by Hasbro, Inc.
Yeti in My Spaghetti by PlayMonster!

Toys that are developed for infants/preschoolers (up to 5 years)

Doc McStuffins Toy Hospital Care Cart by Just Play
Go! Go! Smart Friends ® Enchanted Princess Palace™ by Vtech
IO Blocks® Vehicles by Guidecraft USA Inc.
Razor Jr. T3 Scooter by Razor USA LLC
Robot Engineer by Thames & Kosmos
Wash 'N Go Wooden Car Garage by KidKraft
Zoomer Marshall by Spin Master Ltd.

Toys that utilize innovative design, technology, or manufacturing processes to enhance play value

CHiP by WowWee USA, Inc.
Cozmo by Anki
Fisher Price® Think & Learn Code-a-pillar™ by Mattel, Inc.
Hatchimals by Spin Master Ltd.
Mebo by SkyRocket Toys
Project Mc2 H2O Car by MGA Entertainment
Special Edition Battle-Worn BB-8 with Force Band™ by Sphero

Character or property that has had success spreading its brand throughout the industry

DC Super Hero Girls
Disney's Elena of Avalor
Paw Patrol™
Star Wars

A new company (created within the last 2 years) that has brought to market an outstanding toy

3DoodlerStart Essentials Pen Set by WobbleWorks
Acids, Bases and pH Chemistry Kit by Yellow Scope
CogniToys Dino by CogniToys
Geometry Strategy by Games by Bright of Sweden
IAmElemental Series 1/Courage by IAmElemental
Malia's House by Build & Imagine
Superhero Will by Wonder Crew

Toys primarily distributed through specialty retailers

Automoblox C9 Sportscar by PlayMonster!
Design & Drill® BrightWorks™ by Educational Insights
Flappy Animated Elephants by Gund a Division of Enesco LLC
LEGO Disney Castle by LEGO Systems, Inc.
American Girl® Melody™ Doll and Book by Mattel, Inc.
Nano Nitro Slingshot by HEXBUG
Perplexus Q-bot by PlayMonster!

Physical toys that are electronic or interact with a smart-phone, tablet or gaming device

Air Hogs Connect: Mission Drone by Spin Master Ltd.
CodeGamer by Thames & Kosmos
LUMI by WowWee USA, Inc.
MOTA JETJAT Ultra Streaming Nano Drone by MOTA
Sky Viper Hover Racer by SkyRocket Toys
Wonder Workshop’s Dash & Dot by Wonder Workshop
Zoomer Chimp by Spin Master Ltd.

Toys that are powered or non-powered vehicles, and their play sets/accessories

Air Hogs – Star Wars X-wing vs. Death Star, Rebel Assault - RC Drones by Spin Master Ltd.
Disney Princess Carriage by Dynacraft
Go! Go! Smart Wheels® Treasure Mountain Train Adventure™ by Vtech
Hot Wheels® A.I. Intelligent Race System by Mattel, Inc.
LEGO Technic Porsche 911 GT3RS by LEGO Systems, Inc.
Telsa Model S for Kids by Radio Flyer
XPV® RC Skateboarding Mikey by JAKKS Pacific