Interviews

Interview: Mary Siegel | Cirque du Soleil ‘Crystal’

There are not a whole lot of outlets for fans of ice skating to get their fill of watching their sport of preference. The Winter Olympics only occur every four years (usually via delayed television broadcast), and unless you want to take the kiddos to watch skaters in Disney costumes every January at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse or happen to find oneself on a luxury cruise ship, that’s all she wrote!

Until now! Cirque du Soleil has added a new element to one of its newest shows, Crystal, which incorporates ice skaters alongside the show’s signature acrobatic performers. The touring production will be in Cleveland at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse from July 15 – 17 for multiple performances.

The production follows the story of Crystal, a misfit heroine, who takes the audience on her exhilarating journey of self-discovery. With stunning visuals and performances that Cirque du Soleil viewers have become accustomed to over the years, Crystal also includes a soundtrack that seamlessly blends popular music with the signature sound of Cirque du Soleil.

CleveRock had the privilege to catch up with one of the show’s skaters, Ohio native Mary Siegel, who we reached by phone while she was relaxing on the beach in…Canada…? (Yup, Canada!)

Mary is thrilled to be coming close to home to perform with Crystal.

“I am so excited! I’m from Cincinnati, but I am Ohio through and through. You can ask anybody on my tour,” Siegel said. “I’m always wearing Cinncinati stuff. I’ll try not to wear it as much in Cleveland. I’m a big Bengals supporter! I have family all over Ohio and Michigan so I’m going to have family from all over coming to see me perform while I’m there. I’m very excited. It’s going to feel like I’m performing in front of a home crowd.”

The 33-year-old started competing at the age of six, eventually representing the United States at international competitions. Mary continued to compete until the age of 18 before becoming a professional skater at the age of 22, performing on several tours of Holiday on Ice throughout Europe and on Royal Caribbean cruise ships. Now in her fourth year with Cirque du Soleil, she says the experience is something she never takes for granted (especially after the unplanned pandemic hiatus).

“It’s completely surreal,” she exclaimed. “It seems like after the re-launch from the pandemic, it made me appreciate my job even more. I forgot how it felt to perform. Working for Cirque du Soleil, one of the top entertainment groups in the world and, to be a part of such a big show and beautiful show as a figure skater is amazing.”

Being a performer with such a prominent production is rivaled only by being an astronaut, training Shamu at Sea World, or strutting across the stage as a bonafide rockstar. Mary was quizzed on how one lands such a coveted gig

“I always said that if Cirque ever had an ice show, I would want to be a part of it. As soon as I heard they were casting for ice skaters, I sent my information and showreel, and everything kind of fell into place in that way,” she simplified. “There was a lot of exploration while we were creating this for the show. It’s really exciting for me.”

Of the 42 Cirque du Soleil productions, Crystal is the only one to feature skaters. This gives audience members a whole new element of the ‘WOW’ factor. Siegel was asked to go into detail about what exactly is special about bringing an ice rink into the Cirque du Soleil venue.

“From a skating point of view, it’s very interesting for the audience because most people only watch figure skating on their TV during the Olympics. Now, we’re bringing it to you. You actually get to see what figure skaters do on a performance level. We are doing cooler things than what you see in the Olympics. We do stuff that is illegal to do in competition. That’s the danger factor. They don’t want everyone to be doing back flips and such. You get disqualified from competition if you do that,” she says. “I think it’s cool for the audience to see how fast we actually skate. It’s something that you really can’t see from the TV screen. I love hearing that from people who have never seen skating before. That in itself is scary because of how close we come to the edge of the ice. We have some high-flying extreme skaters who are jumping off of ramps and making hairpin turns on the ice. They are doing all of these crazy flips and tricks like 360s. I just think that skating gives Cirque du Soleil a whole different dimension. You have what is happening on the ice but then you also have what you expect from a Cirque du Soleil show and seeing people fly 30 feet in the air.

Siegel mentions the “danger factor.” Anyone who has seen or is familiar with Cirque knows that the performers, despite safety precautions and protocols, are acting out dangerous stunts. In Crystal, there are no soft landings!

“We are skating with knives on our feet. That alone is dangerous. The acrobats, they are used to performing over trampolines and soft mats and things like that. Now, their stage is ice. I don’t know if you’ve ever fallen on ice, but it’s very painful. If you go down on ice it’s unforgiving. You take a splat,” Siegel explains. “There is a little bit of that danger factor and the fact that ice is slippery. That’s something the acrobats had to get used to when they first came.”

As for being a witness to any accidents at the show or rehearsals:

“I’ve seen some blood. I’ve seen some accidents,” Siegel admits. “There is that risk, but you know, we are all experts at what we do. I think that keeps us safe at the end of the day. We are human, after all. That’s entertainment for you. You will never know if someone gets hurt though.”

Cirque du Soleil is a unique and special brand of entertainment. The shutdown of such a magnificent production beginning in 2020 was a big blow, maybe even more so than the rest of the entertainment industry shutdown.

“I think art and live entertainment and sports; it’s such an important part of our society because it brings everyone together. It’s a time to escape what’s going on in our lives. It’s time to escape all of the politics and everything that is going on for each and every one of us,” Siegel said. “It’s a good moment for people to come together and see things from the same point of view. In this show, everybody has their own perspective based on the story. Everyone has a different way of connecting to the main character, Crystal. That’s something I feel is really valuable as an audience member, coming to see this show in particular. It does take you into some kinds of depths that we’ve had. We all had some times during the pandemic when we had to rethink and re-evaluate our lives. That’s exactly what Crystal does throughout this show.”

Before we let Mary go back to enjoying her Canadian beach, we left her with the question of why Crystal is a good value for someone’s entertainment budget.

“I would say because of the story of the show in itself…it has something that is very relatable to just about anybody. It’s a journey of self-reflection and self-exploration. I think everybody can relate to that in a way and if you’ve never seen ice skating before, now is the time to do it,” she concludes. “There’s good music, the lighting is spectacular. Everything about it is a full experience. I’ve never left the ice not feeling proud of what I’ve done and not feeling the excitement from the crowd. We get standing ovations just about every single night.”

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