Cirque Shanghai3When you tell a teenager you have tickets to something and the response is an enthusiastic “Yeah, cool. I like that. I want to go,” you know you’re on to something. For my teens, there are two live theater shows that have elicited that response: Blue Man Group and Cirque Shanghai.

Not be confused with the better known Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Shanghai is a troupe of Chinese acrobats, contortionists and daredevils that spends its summers in Chicago onstage at the Pepsi Skyline Stage at Navy Pier.

The enthusiastic teens and I headed to opening night with great expectations. We were not disappointed.

This is Cirque Shanghai’s third summer in Chicago, so it was our third time seeing the amazing and impressive 90-minute show. ProductReviewEach year it’s been different, although a few crowd pleasers—notably the “Wheel of Destiny” and “Globe of Death”—are back and virtually unchanged. And, like the previous two years, most of the acts had my teens cheering and clapping like they were 13-year-old girls at a Justin Bieber concert.

Cirque Shanghai2The 2013 version, called “Cirque Shanghai: Dragon’s Thunder,” features 15 acts including the groan-inducing “Pas De Deux Contortion,” the grace and beauty of the high-flying acrobats in “Silks” and “Mulan’s Dragon Drums,” a drumming corps that would make those blue men jealous.


The production runs through Sept. 2 (Labor Day). Tickets are $15.50 to $29.50 (but check Groupon, Amazon, Travelzoo and other daily deal sites for half-price tickets). Performances are Wednesday through Sunday, but if you can, take in the 8 pm show on Wednesday or Saturday and then stick around for the 15-minute fireworks show on the Pier, the Midwest’s No. 1 tourist attraction. If you can avoid it, don’t drive to Navy Pier. Parking will set you back $20+. Instead, opt for public transportation, walk from downtown or hop on board the free trolley that runs State Street to Navy Pier in the summer.

Disclosure: I was given four tickets to the opening night performance of Cirque Shanghai for the purposes of writing this review. The opinions, however, are mine and those of the teens who joined me at the show.