Trip the Light Fantastic: Cavalia’s “ODYSSEO”

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Photo Credit: François Bergeron; the show is excruciatingly beautiful.

Presented by Cavalia, Inc.
Directed by Wayne Fowkes
Equestrian Direction and Choreography by Benjamin Aillaud
Choreography by Darren Charles & Alain Gauthier

August 7 – 25, 2013 (extended by demand)
Under the Big Top
Assembly Row
Somerville, MA 02145
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Review by Kitty Drexel

(Somerville) If there were a special Heaven divined for equines and the humans who love them to commune in the afterlife, it would look like Cavalia’s Odysseo. These horses are intelligent and strong. They call to mind the unicorn myths handed down through generations. Although, their human companions are equally as gifted, the show is not about Man. It’s about the sinuous beauty of the horse. This spectacle trades on Man’s obsession with these majestic beasts and provides a glimpse into where the obsession comes from.

There are 63 magnificent beasts that trip the light fantastic in Odysseo. They are excellently trained. The four-footed wonders gallop like it ain’t no thang as two-footed athletes flip upside-down, twirl and do all manner of tricks on the saddle. This would not be possible without the deep respect that radiates from rider and horse. The human cast has notable camaraderie that extends to their equine partners and into the audience. The horses are working hard despite many distractions and their humans do not take them for granted.

On the evening I attended, one rider was gently bumped from the saddle. In a remarkable act of skill, the horse momentarily paused and then joined the other horses on stage in their circular running formation. The woman was not trampled. The horse was not confused. Both rejoined the performance as if nothing had happened – Amazing. This is mentioned because the riders, acrobats and horses make their acts look so simple, so deceptively easy that the average Joe might think that anyone could train a horse. This is not so. The horses behave like extra-large hounds with their two-footed castmates. In the stables after the production, much like Mariah Carey in her dressing room, they would not respond to anyone else.

The sumptuous costumes and stirring music channel cosmetic flourishes from ‘80’s fantasy movies. Both aid in transitioning the audience into a world similar to Xena: Warrior Princess or the 2007 London production of Lord of the Rings, the musical (a truly magical production). The female vocalist, Anne-Laura Edmiston, has a gorgeous pop-singing voice and a committed stage presence both on stage and in the elevated band pit. If Shakira procreated with Celine Dion, Edmiston would be their lovechild. The band was excellent. The talents of violinist David Piche were particularly exuberant.

Several sections of Odysseo reference African dance and song. There are acts with acrobats, aerialists and silks one of which includes a life-size carousel. The rest is typical western fetishizing of horse culture. One sees the horses dance, prance, run and play. It’s everything a horse enthusiast could ask for and much more but not so much more that the horses join humans on the silks. That would be weird and probably illegal. This production could only be described as epic or ethereal.

See how awesome this trailer is? Odysseo is literally 2 hours of awesomeness.

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