Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Under a giant white tent, Odysseo incorporates a large, 8,400 square foot projection screen that stretches the width of the venue, where giant moving images quickly transport the audience to varied landscapes, a three-story man-made hill, aerialists, acrobats, and a nonstop score of original music played by a live band situated on a balcony on both sides of the audience. But it's the majestic horses that take center stage throughout.
When the show begins, a single horse appears alone on stage. It is slowly joined by other horses, as the serene tableau and the quiet musical underscore expand into an explosion of multiple horses prancing, galloping, and playing together across the giant, 17,500 square foot, dirt-filled stage. With the rhythm of the live band quickening, a troupe of African acrobats show off their impressive, non-stop tumbling abilities which is followed by a group of athletes wearing pogo-like stilts and a series of riders who collectively exhibit their pole-jumping abilities in a series of jumps that get higher and higher and send them flying high in the air.
Over a dozen different sequences follow. Some feature skilled bareback riders showing off their abilities in doing precision maneuvers and tricks with the horses, while others incorporate acrobats who exhibit their skill in flips and aerial work. There is also a full-size rotating carousel that descends from above where acrobats twirl, flex, climb and move on the moving poles as the carousel rotates in front of our eyes, and another segment where a group of female aerialists soar above on silk ropes while the other ends of the long silks are attached to riders on white horses below who move the aerialists around and send them soaring.
While the segments don't follow any specific plot or theme, there is an overall feeling that celebrates the beauty of both the human and equine form. That beauty is exhibited in both the athleticism of the muscular acrobats as well as the coordination of the synchronized, yet still playful, and unpredictable horses. In addition, the last sequence begins with the image of a realistic waterfall projected across the arena while a lone rider exquisitely maneuvers a horse through a series of steps while 40,000 gallons of water are pumped in below that transforms the arena into a giant watering hole, for an awe-inspiring and exuberant finale filled with the entire cast and dozens of horses playing and the riders and acrobats exhibiting their skills in a continuous series of tricks and jumps.
The theatrical production elements of the show are top notch. Michel Cusson's score features a range of world musical styles that include African rhythms as well as Spanish and Mideastern influences, while the costumes from Michèle Hamelhe are colorful and vibrant. Alain Lortie's always-changing lighting with Geodezik Olivier Goulet's impressive visuals on Guillaume Lord's set that is filled with many surprises create many rich and rewarding stage images.
Whether it's seeing the vast hill filled with dozens of sleeping and resting horses that suddenly come to life to start the second act, or a series of riders, dressed in nomadic robes, off in the distance as they majestically enter over the crest of the giant hill, or even a group of free horses prancing, cantering and playfully splashing and running through the water, there are numerous segments in the show that evoke thrilling and memorable images. Cavalia's Odysseo is a show unlike any I've ever seen and a celebration of the innocence and magnificent beauty of these beautiful horses and the sheer strength of the relationship between animal and man.
Odysseo, April 8, 2018, at 1475 N. McClintock Drive, Scottsdale AZ. For tickets and information, visit www.cavalia.com/scottsdale.