By GENE STOUT
There is perhaps no better way to celebrate the Year of the Horse than by attending a performance of “Odysseo,” the $30 million international touring extravaganza blending equestrian arts, theater, music, stage craft, daredevil acrobatics and high-tech wizardry.
Extended through March 30 at the white big top at Marymoor Park in Redmond, “Odysseo” is billed as “an ode to horse and man.”
Think of the production as an equine ballet, with humans and horses interacting in stunningly choreographed, dreamlike sequences. Chances are you’ve never seen horses perform quite like this.
Sixty-six horses of a dozen breeds – among them Arabians, Appaloosas, Spanish horses and Lusitanos from Portugal — and 52 dancers, acrobats, riders and musicians are featured in the eye-popping production created by Cavalia, the Montreal-based entertainment company founded by Normand Latourelle. (The horses are fastidiously cared for in a large backstage stable; those who purchase the VIP package are offered a tour of the stable after the show.)
At a matinee performance Sunday, Feb. 23, the horse-and-human spectacular dazzled a crowd spanning multiple generations. Even though there was no real storyline — other than the “journey to another world” described on the official website — the production moved along at an exhilarating pace.
Acrobats in spring-loaded footwear provided some humorous thrills as they somersaulted over poles and horses. Other acrobats flipped across the stage like human Slinkys.
More than 10,000 tons of sand, dirt and stones are used to create the open space and 35-foot-high “mountain” on which horses and humans interact (the performance field was virtually dust-free). A technical grid that supports 80 tons of equipment, including a full-size merry-go-round, hovers over the artificial landscape (the merry-go-round descended during a magical scene late in Sunday’s show).
Surrounding the stage is a curved video backdrop as large as three IMAX screens, displaying landscape imagery evoking ancient times and exotic locales.
During a storm scene, a rain machine showered the stage with surprising realism. In the second half, a lake magically appeared when more than 80,000 gallons of water were quietly pumped into the staging area.
Singers and musicians perform from elevated, somewhat obscured stages at opposite sides of the tent, syncing their music – a blend of Latin, Middle Eastern, Far Eastern and other world music styles — to elaborate choreography. Pacing was just right for a 2 ½-hour production with intermission.
At the matinee performance, a female rider fell, but quickly recovered and retrieved her horse. It was a reminder that even in a meticulously choreographed show, mishaps can occur. Occasionally, horses nipped at each other or just enjoyed a good roll in the sand in classic horseplay.
Tickets are priced from $34.50 to $149.50. A “Rendez-Vous” VIP package includes premium seats, dinner buffet, open bar and desserts during intermission, as well as a tour of the stable after the performance; prices range from $154.50 to $229.50.
For more information and updates, visit the official website here