Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

February 21, 2014 at 9:41am

"Cavalia's Odysseo" offers horseplay on a massive scale

With "Odysseo," "Cavalia’s" equine circus is back??"this time with the world’s largest big top, 66 hoofed performers, a mountain and a lake.

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If you've missed the fact that Cavalia's newest show Odysseo is in the region, you've been under a rock. Cavalia goes all out with billboards, TV commercials, radio ads and other media outlets. But then, nothing Cavalia does is small. The show is most certainly not small. The show is mind-bogglingly massive in just about every way.

Cavalia's Odysseo, like Cavalia before it, brings both horses and humans to the stage - 66 horses and 52 human performers to be exact. The huge cast is only complemented by the equally gigantic big top under which the show takes place. Said big top is a whopping 125 feet tall, the largest touring big top on the planet. The stage underneath it spans 4,570 feet and has 80 tons of electrical and show equipment suspended in the grid above stage, including a full carousel. From the moment guests arrive, the big top begins to dazzle and the dazzling doesn't stop for the rest of the night.

The show opens with a Q&A about the show projected onto a huge, translucent curtain surrounding the stage. Remember some factoids about the show, for instance that there are zero mares in the production. You're welcome. When you get the question right, high five someone in the audience.

When the curtains pull back, the expansive stage opens up and the show begins with a quiet moment of horses gathering. One of the best aspects of how Odysseo is put together is the sense of balance. The sets and scenes morph from ethereal to earthly, from active to passive, from filled with performers and horses to very simple.

>>> Horses prance on a large grassy field in a scene of Odysseo at Marymoor Park in Redmond. Photo credit: Pascal Ratthe

Acrobatics, stunning horsemanship, and the relationship between the horses and humans on stage all take equal turns. Some of the stunts, like a man crawling all the way around a body of a horse while it's running, are very forward. Others, like a single trainer speaking commands to a team of six running Arabians, are subtle ... until you think about what it took to get that scene so perfect. Other sets are almost mystical, such as the giant carousel or women in flowing robes who ride standing on two horses at a time.

For the most part, the horses perform seamlessly, but every once in a while you'll spot one doing its own thing and going against the grain. Those moments remind you that the show is about a relationship, that the performers are asking the horses to join in, but cannot make them.

Odysseo promises to take viewers around the world and the show hammers this home during its first scene transition - from the lush forest of the opening to an expansive grassland that doesn't seem like it should fit inside a tent. Even a very large tent. The journey will also take viewers to the jungle and, at the end of the show, a watery fantasy world during which the stage is flooded with 80,000 gallons of water for a scene that begins with a single horse on a prancing horse and breaks into a spectacular finale complete with acrobats in the air, acrobats flipping through the water, horses running through the water, and the entire cast.

I've been a fan of Cirque du Soleil for much of my life. Knowing Normand Latourelle, formerly associated with Cirque in the 1980s, founded Cavalia intrigued me. How similar would the shows be? Would Cavalia be a rehash of Cirque? Happily, I say no! I've never in my life seen anything like Odysseo and doubt I ever will again. The size and scope, the fact that there are dozens of horses just steps away from the audience, and the seamless crafting of a fantastical world right in front of the audience all make Odysseo a sight to be seen.

ODYSSEO, through March 16, Marymoor Park, Redmond, $34.50 and $149.50, $129.50 to $229.50 for the Rendez-Vous VIP package, 866.999.8111

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