Review: Odysseo by Cavalia

| April 17, 2017

Odysseo by Cavalia - Opening Night 2           


Creator by Normand Latourelle
Big Top at Soldier Field South Lot (map)
thru May 7  |  tix: $35-$270  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

Now extended thru May 7th!


Breathtaking and hypnotic from start to finish


Odysseo by Cavalia - Opening Night 12

Cavalia Inc. presents

Review by Catey Sullivan

The most expensive live theater show in Chicago right now? That would be Cavalia’s Odysseo, where ticket prices top out at close to $300. The cheapest seats (which have obstructed views of the stage) will set you back $34. Whether Odysseo is worth the investment depends on your love of horses and spectacle as well as your degree of discretionary income.

Odysseo by Cavalia - Opening NightMake no mistake: Odysseo is breathtaking from start to finish. Starring 65 horses and 48 human aerialists, acrobats and riders, the tech-heavy production is a staggeringly beautiful and impossibly elaborate affair that will send your jaw to the floor in the opening moments, and keep it there for the next three hours. Think the gravity-defying human feats of Cirque du Soleil coupled with the wild beauty of nature at its most sublime and you’ll have an idea of what Odysseo delivers.

Creator Normand Latourelle has spared seemingly no expense in bringing his vision to life. The horses, he noted in an in an interivew with Crains, travel on their own private jet. They also travel with their own masseuses, and a 34,000 square foot paddock/stable complex. As for the 17,500 square foot stage under the big white top dominating the Museum Campus skyline, it features rolling hills made of some 10,000 tons of rock, dirt and sand for the horses to perform on. There is also 40,000 gallon lake that pours in for the closing number, giving the horses a splashtastic finale.

The technical aspects of the show bear describing. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear Latourelle had transported acres of actual sun-drenched African savannas, lush tropical forests and roaring waterfalls to Chicago. Thanks to a 70-ton technical grid supporting 200 moving lights and 18 mammoth projectors, it is sometimes impossible to tell where special effects end and reality begins in Odysseo.

Exquisitely deployed spectacle is all well and good, but without substance and heart, the grandest cavalcade of eye-popping production values rings hollow. Latourelle has instilled Odysseo with heart and emotion to match its outsize pageantry. The high-octane stunts by the trick riders, the achingly lovely grace the aerial dancers and the dangerous daredevilry of the acrobats – all will keep you in the edge of your seat. As will the horses, who spend almost half the show moving without riders or bits or saddles.

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Latourelle paces the show to perfection, alternating acts that have the tranquil, meditative beauty of a watercolor masterpiece with rambunctious, exceedingly risky (for the humans anyway) feats of derring-do. Among the two-legged showstoppers are a troupe of tumblers who literally achieve heights that seem impossible. When they send themselves rocketing across a stage filled with galloping horses, they repeatedly come within millimeters of being trampled to death. Ditto the trick riders who do handstands, backbends and round-offs while atop loping stallions. The juxtaposition of danger, beauty and athletic prowess is thrilling.

Among the most beautiful and contemplative numbers arrives when a massive carousel descends from some 125-feet above the hills of the stage floor. With real horses gliding in circles below, a corps of gymnasts on the carousel create the the world’s most gorgeous pole dance. There’s a similarly ethereal grace to the show’s silk aerialists, who flutter and twirl from bolts of luminous fabric while the horses create a synchronized ballet far below.

Latourelle has said he wanted Odysseo to depict the history of humans through their millennia-long relationship with horses. You wouldn’t necessarily know that to watch the show – if there’s history lessons in the various acts, they’ve been subsumed by the show’s overwhelming visuals. That hardly matters. The world of Odysseo is so completely mesmerizing it doesn’t need a narrative.

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As the riders deliver elite demonstrations of everything from dressage to bareback gymnastics and the stage morphs from undulating desert dunes to fantasy ice kingdom to watery emerald lagoon, you’ll find your mind emptying of everything but the enchanting world before you.

In addition to the landscapes created by set designer Guillaume Lord and “visual concept” artists of the Montreal-based firm Geodezik, much of the show’s zen-like beauty comes from Georges Levesque and Michel Hamel’s intricate, richly colored costume designs. Latourelle counts some 365 different couture creations onstage. They are lavishly detailed works of art, each new look seemingly more lavish than the last.

Odysseo’s visual sumptuousness is matched by its auditory world. Musicians are perched high above both sides of the stage. Vocalists adjust their rhythm to the whims of the horses below. A la Cirque du Soleil, the lyrics are in a language no one has ever heard of. It’s best that way – with no words to contemplate, the sound simply engulfs you.

Latourelle works an on-the-nose, but inarguable message into the second act, as a group of riotously energized drummers from Guinea incite the audience to cry out pounding out a chorus of “O walu guere moufan.” That’s Susu, a language of Guinea. It translates to “no more war.”

The world of Odysseo is a wholly conflict-free fantasy. It is also almost hypnotic. In an ideal world, everyone would have access to the production.

Rating: ★★★★

Odysseo continues through April 23 May 7 at Soldier Field South Lot, 1410 Museum Campus Drive (map).  Tickets are $35-$270, and are available by phone (866-999-8111) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at More information at time: 3 hours, includes 30-minute intermission)

Odysseo by Cavalia - Opening Night 16



acrobats and aerialists:

Lucas Altemeyer, Samuel Alvarez, Alseny Bangoura, Balla Moussa Bangoura, Younoussa Bangoura, Sekou Camara, Mohamed Conte, Uys DuBuisson, Monize Caroline Gmach, Michel Kamono, Nicolo Kehrwald, Elodie Nonis, Karolina Melska, Maksym Ovchnnikov, Julissa Panus, Elisa Penello, Estella Sartori, Anton Savytskyi, Pavel Skyba, Moustapha Soumah, Alhassane Sylla, Alseny Sylla, Mohamed Sylla, Jacki Ward Kehrwald.


Arnaud Attou, Amelie Bauza, Mathieu Bianchi, Ludivine Brousseau, Nevine Chouraqui, Adrien Delbaere-Crespo, Guillaume Dubrana, Benoit Drouet, Romain Drouet, Jonathan Gil Delgado, Sacha Giordani Colantoni, Jeremy Gutierrez, Chelsea Jordan, Camille Kaczmarek, Charles Lamarche, Majolie Nadeau, Elodie Nonis (also aerialist), Steven Paulson, Estelle Sartori (also aerialist), Batraz Tsokolaev, Elisa Verdoncq.

behind the scenes

Normand Latourelle (artistic director, creator), Wayne Fowles (director), Guillaume Lord (set design), Geodezik (visual concept), Michael Cusson (music composer), Georges Levesque and Michele Hamel (costume design), Darren Charles and Alain Gauthier (choreography), Louis Bond (hair designer).

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Category: 2017 Reviews, Catey Sullivan, National Tours, Performance Art - Circus, Soldier Field

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