By Barry Reszel
The average human’s experience with wild animal training typically centers around the inability to keep one’s Bichon from peeing in the house during a rainstorm.
This alone makes Odysseo, the jaw-droppingly distinct equine work of Canadian entertainment giant Cavalia Inc., brilliant. Yet managing a harras of 65 horses through two-plus hours of family entertainment is only part of the full Odysseo experience.
Staged in the massive white tent at Soldier Field’s south parking lot, Odysseo is an odd marriage of horse and acrobat. With show styling reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil, Cavalia’s impressive cast of 48 riders, acrobats, aerialists, stilt walkers, dancers and musicians are highlighted by state-of-the-art lighting and graphic effects.
It’s fair to say Odysseo lives up to its marketing billing (if you drive around Chicagoland at all, you’ve no doubt seen a billboard or 10) as a “once-in-a-lifetime theatrical experience for the whole family.”
There’s no doubt the stars of this show are four-legged. Odysseo shows off the beauty and harmony of the relationship between horse and rider, along with strength, speed , tenderness and grace—combined elements of majesty seen in these truly stunning creatures.
The horse scenes are presented on numerous enchanted terrains on the 17,500 square foot stage featuring 10,000 tons of earth, rock and sand, a three-story hill and ultimately, 40,000 gallons of water. They are interspersed with standing-ovation-worthy performances from the inspiring African acrobatic troupe.
Created by Normand Latourelle and directed by Wayne Fowkes, the entire event is billed as a journey through the seasons, beginning in an enchanted forest and ending among the waterfalls. It’s backed by live musicians playing Michael Cusson‘s haunting score, with set design by Guillaume Lord, choreography by Darren Charles and Alain Gauthier, costumes by Georges Levesque and Michele Hamel and unbelievable technology work by Montreal-based multimedia company Geodezik.
Odysseo is the type of entertainment that will effect every patron differently. What one might describe as an eerie sameness another might take as a soulful reminder. This reviewer finds the journey metaphor to be a stretch but appreciates the parts of the sum.
All said, this Riverdance with horses, acrobats and stunning effects is an absolute must for the equine lover and a “why not?” for anyone whose entertainment budget permits this unique, inspiring, winsome experience.
Cavalia Inc. presents “Odysseo” through May 28 under the Big Top in the Solider Field south parking lot, 1410 Museum Campus Drive, Chicago. More information and tickets are available here.