Odysseo – Gallops into Toronto

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The brain child of Norman Latourelle (Montreal), artistic director of Cavalia, productions ( 2 fo far) Cavalia and Odysseo this is a virtually indescribable entertainment genre.
I really want to paint a verbal picture that will tempt you to go see this unusual “hybrid” performance which is only here till June 3.
My curiosity was initially picqued through massive billboards strategically placed throughout the city – a chocolate box swirling brown blend of horses and elaborate lettering – it looked like the advertising for an Italian Opera.
Don’t ever tell me advertising doesn’t work: I had to look it up immediately and was still little the wiser after visiting the website except I knew it had something to do with herds of horses and acrobats!
And broken down to the basics that is fundamentally what it is.
Except it is so much more…..
A spectacular ” Cirque de “Soleil” meets “Lion King”? No…….
Rodeo meets old fashioned circus minus the performing animals? No…..
As with the flyer which I picked up in the Cherry Street Cafe just minutes before the show, the integrity of the show’s core, its visual landscapes and costumes cannot be encapsulated in a few words or even a few pictures.
The promotional literature comprised what appeared to be heavily photo-shopped, old-school Technicolor rainbow montages of various moments in the show eeuchhh!
Even the YouTube snippet doesn’t capture it, as it simply diminishes the experience to a small two-dimensional string of moving images.
It’s like a trying to judge the personality of someone from a static photo versus the living breathing version.
What I am trying to portray is that as live entertainment goes, this is the Real Deal – a return to the sort of show that your great grandparents would have flocked to see when it came to town.
A melding of horses, acrobats, and musicians fused into one glorious whole by the most imaginative visuals and choreography you will ever have seen in a live show – I mean EVER. Technology used to enhance and embrace the performances, to build excitement that will cause you to lean forward on the edge of your seat and marvel at the performers rather than simply at the special effects themselves!
Oh and everybody gets a great unimpeded view thanks to this amazing Big Top -unmissable on Cherry street and visible from way along the Gardner Expressway FYI it is not the virtually permanent home of the Toronto based Cirque de Soleil.
Entering the Big Top you find yourself behind the auditorium structure. Climbing the stairs and looking down towards the set curving around the base of the seats the first thing you notice is that there are absolutely no obstructions or masts anywhere in the space -all these are outside so it feels like you are in a theatre – minus any pillars.
All the music is courtesy of a small band perched up high within both wings – occasionally the singer or a musician will appear front and centre as part of a segment. The music initially has Celtic overtones (think Clannad sings opera), but part two of the show leans heavily on a Lion King inspired musical score to support the African themed portions show.
There is so much action in every scene – horses are the main focus -every breed imaginable is represented in the 60 or so horses that appear – I hesitate to use the word “perform” as this is not what the show is about. These trained horses belt around the set in choreographed herds led by one or as many as 8 “horse whispering” riders.
Each of these riders carries a slender twitch during the “wild and free” sets but these do not appear to be used on the horses; there is no shouting or instructions yelled and every movement of both horse and leader is calm, slow and (and I hesitate to use this word) loving!
The riders – now these are the true performers, the horses being merely a conduit for demonstrating the incredible link between man and horse that has existed for centuries. We are talking consummate horsemen – capable of good old-fashioned trick-riding, many had dressage skills and boy did they have great core body strength entering the show standing on two horses like chariot riders minus the chariot….. And other stuff I cannot believe I witnessed a human on a horse doing!!!!!
Pivotal to the whole experience is the magnificent revolving landscape projection behind the set which literally takes you round the world visually.
And I’m not even gonna talk about the water ………
In this day and age of mind-blowing (yawn) cinematic special effects in so many if our movies. Prepare to dial it back to yester-year a tadge and be astounded!
Over and out
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