Review: Cavalia's Odysseo Stuns Capacity Opening-Night Crowd in Redmond, WA

Sixty-six horses, 52 human performers, a hockey rink-sized stage, and giant widescreen backdrop combine for a one-of-a-kind experience.

By , Contributor

Voyageurs - Credits: Lynne Glazer

A stirring exhibition of equestrian and acrobatic arts, Odysseo is another stone-cold knockout by Cavalia. A sequel to their original production (still touring after ten years), Odysseo is another classy production chock full of daring trick riding, amazing gymnastics, and balletic displays of physical agility. The show travels from city to city setting up shop inside a complex of big tops (the main performance tent stands ten stories high) that takes some 80 people to construct. A stable houses 66 horses of 11 breeds. There’s no effective way to describe the sight of the equine performers as they walk, trot, canter, and gallop around the gigantic, sandy-floored stage. They appear in many configurations, ranging from a single horse to a herd of 30 at once. The riders exhibit firm, but very gentle, control over their animals, directing them to perform an astonishing array of gaits.

A sold-out audience responded boisterously to the dozens of horses and human performers at Odysseo’s opening night at Redmond, Washington’s Marymoor Park. The show began a four-week run on February 19 (initially scheduled for three weeks, due to intense demand a fourth was added before the first performance even occurred). Odysseo is a $30 million production and while at first glance the ticket prices may appear steep, it’s worth it for such an extraordinarily artful presentation. Luckily the tiered seats under the White Big Top allow for great viewing from just about any spot (there is also a reduced-price “partially obstructed view” section).

Odysseo horses through water (380x259).jpgWhat cannot be emphasized enough is that Odysseo is an overwhelmingly powerful visual and sonic experience. Live musicians perform Michel Cusson’s captivating score in booths overlooking the performance area. Behind the stage, a backdrop equivalent to three IMAX screens displays ever-changing scenes of nature, ranging from wind-blown sand dunes to starry skies. Various configurations of human performers rouse spectators with feats of strength and balance. A troupe of acrobats from Guinea leads the audience in call-and-response chants, establishing their own rhythms with African percussion instruments. The energy shared by the audience and cast of performers is palpable, ebbing and flowing as the show unfolds.

Odysseo woman with horse (216x280).jpgAmong the crowd-pleasing showpieces is a full size carousel that lowers from the rigging, its tall poles allowing for some graceful scaling of heights as the acrobats climb, twirl, and interact with one another. Vocalist Anna-Laura Edmiston mingles with the cast during this and other key segments (she is also spotlighted at times in the musicians’ booth). A stunning display of trick riding finds spectators holding their collective breath before bursting into applause as each stunt is completed. Riders flip upside down on galloping horses, ride two at once while in a standing position, and a variety of other showstoppers. While no one in their right mind would want to see any unfortunate mishaps, the very real possibility for a fall at any moment only adds to the breathtaking, in-the-moment immediacy.

Odysseo standing on horses (380x253).jpgWhether hanging from their knees on giant hoops while swinging and spinning above the stage or bounding around in jumping stilts, leaping over logs held at ever-increasing heights, the acrobats provide something to look at during every moment. You almost need a panoramic field of vision to take in everything occurring on stage during the show’s busiest acts. By the time the finale surges in, the entire flat area of the stage (the rear portion rises to form a steep slope) has been flooded with cool blue water to create an instant lake. Elise Verdoncq manages to steal the show with some of Odysseo’s quietest moments as she guides several freely running horses at once, using only the most imperceptible commands, or while riding a horse (utilizing a variety of gaits) through the water in perfect time with the surging music.

Odysseo finale (380x253).jpgThe artistic visionary behind Cavalia, Normand Latourelle, has created something very special with Odysseo. Keep an eye on the show’s itinerary on their official website (after Washington, the show moves up to Canada for shows in Alberta beginning in late April). For those willing to spend a bit more, VIP ticket packages are available that include access to a special lounge for dinner before the show, dessert at intermission, and a stable tour plus reception after the show. And for those so inclined, an open bar includes beer, wine, and champagne. The full schedule and ticket information for the Redmond shows can be found here.


First Photo: The Travelers 3 - Credits: François Bergeronnd

Second Photo:
Grand Cavalia 4 - Credits: Pascal Ratthé

Third Photo: Epona - Credits: Pascal Ratthé

Fourth Photo: Odysseo Finale - Credits: Lynne Glazer

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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