Review (Kid+1): Odysseo (Cavalia)

Cavalia’s “spectacular” equine fantasy show runs in Toronto until May 10th, 2015.

Cavalia’s Odysseo is all spectacle. It’s a giant expansive stage, and it needs to be—72 horses and 45 humans will perform on it over the course of the show. The humans include acrobats, aerialists on both silks and rings, a carousel that descends from the sky, and stunt riders.

In case that’s not enough for you, the landscape will change and ripple, go from spring to drought to icy winter, and show scenes from across the world. Near the end, rain actually floods the stage. For what it’s worth, the kid loved this show, and I have never, ever, seen him clap so enthusiastically.

Odysseo is not about story. There is no discernible narrative.

Artistic director Normand Latourelle worked with Cirque du Soleil from 1985 to 1990, and it’s hard to avoid comparisons. Certainly, one evokes the other—both are big tent, big stage shows that have lots to look at and feature similar Enya-esque music that’s high on emotional impact and low on lyrics. Both clearly have their roots in traditional big top performances, but woven with more magic, more sets, and new technology.

That said, Cavalia is not just Cirque with horses. I far preferred the Cavalia show to Cirque performances I have seen, and I’m not a horse person. While Cirque tries to put forward a narrative, Odysseo’s lack of one actually made for a more unified, less contrived show.

As someone who doesn’t even know how to get onto a horse, it’s remarkable to watch the riders seemingly bounce on and off the horses. In several scenes, women dressed in flowing white ride in, standing, each on a team of horses, which looks both beautiful and dangerous to the untrained eye. The horses also perform without riders, as a performer directs a group of horses to create circles, shapes, and giant wheels.

The horses look beautiful, well kept and glossy, and while the humans often carry whips we never saw them used. At one point, there were 32 horses on stage (unharnessed in any way) creating a giant circle in teams of four, and one of the horses left his team to join another. The horses adapted as a human redirected the horse back to its original team of four. As an audience, we got the impression that disobedience is not punished, but good behaviour is rewarded.

I found the most exciting scenes to be the ones without horses. The Guinean acrobats were spectacular. They performed innumerable flips and feats of balancing. Early on, they are joined by a team of acrobats wearing spring stilts, and it almost felt like the that team was cheating and still failing. Even with their fancy springs, they were nowhere near as bouncy or as liquid as the Guinean performers.

In another scene, a full size classic carousel descends from the ceiling. The acrobats ride out on horses, and then climb from the horses onto the carousel. As it rotates and the painted ponies go up and down, they perform incredible pole work, both as individuals and in pairs. It’s beautiful and ethereal and really was my moment of entering into the dream.

In the second act there is a stunning winter scene – 7 aerial hoops descend across the stage and 9 aerialists take to them. The hoops raise and lower, the performers balance, move, spin, and become snow flakes caught in a winter storm. Even after the winter we’ve had in Toronto, this made me yearn for the majesty of snow.

The show ends with a celebration of horses and humans together. A single glowing white horse dance their way through the flooded stage in delicate, ballet-like steps, kicking up water as they go. Then they are joined by other horses and riders and the entire human cast. Even after a two and a half hour show they seem relaxed, pleased to be together, and willing to splash about. I’m glad I’m not responsible for getting all the wardrobe clean and dry between shows, but my small companion and I could not have been more delighted to be there.


“Kid Plus One” notes:

Darkness: House lights are dimmed, but not darkened entirely.

Loud/sudden noises: None.

Timing: The website states that the show is two and a half hours. There is a half hour intermission. From the time the show started to pulling out of the parking lot was three hours.

Themes: Beauty, connections, dreams, magic, and splashing.

Seating: Seats are assigned. Because of the size of the stage and the sloped seating, all seats have a good view of the stage. Centre row front seats may get wet in the final scene. General tickets are for the show – it is possible to purchase packages that include a stable tour, or meeting the horses afterwards. This will be announced at the end of the show, and my kid was disappointed to learn I had not taken that option.

Overall family-friendliness: High. While the music is performed live, it is all amplified and quiet conversation is not out of the question. They sell popcorn, hot dogs, soft pretzels and nachos on site, which means that there will be people around you making some amount of noise with their snacks. Once the show starts, this sound is totally covered by the music. Adult beverages are also available for sale.



  •  Cavalia’s Odysseo is playing at their site on Lakeshore Blvd. West of Cherry St.
  •  Shows Tuesday-Saturday, 8:00pm, with Saturday and Sunday 2:00pm matinees. Now to May 10
  •  Ticket prices $49.50 – $139.50. VIP Packages $144.50 – $254.50
  •  Tickets are available online, at the box office, by phone at 1-866-999-8111.

Photo by Samantha Wu.

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