For the second year in a row, the big white top on the empty lot alongside the 405 and the 133 freeways in Irvine is the temporary home to Cavalia's Odysseo, the world's biggest touring show. Creator/artistic director and Cirque du Soleil alum Normand Latourelle developed a theatrical performance that combines beautiful horses with human arts and live composed music..and you missed it last year, right? Your loss. Those complaining about high ticket prices—no seriously, you want to go, and here are five reasons why.
5. This is not your normal horse show. No, really
"I went to many horse shows and I can tell you, most of them are very boring," Latourelle said, in talking about the genesis behind the show. "You go to a rodeo, the horse do one hour of barrel racing and then you go to a jump competition where they do three hours of the same thing, and go to a dressage, it's very beautiful, but after 15 minutes you've seen all of it."
It took him eight years to ensure Odysseo was to be a unique performance. "The show is about horses, but it has nothing to do with the traditional horse show," Latourelle says. He believes that Odysseo is successful because people expect to see something mediocre and receive the opposite. With 68 stallions and geldings as well as 45 acrobats and aerialists, that's far bigger than any tradition horse pageant. Add in a mountain in front of a large screen with hand-painted images projected throughout and a 40,000-gallon pond that appears for the finale, and that's how you attract over 1.5 million attendees over five years of touring.
4. Normand Latourelle's brilliant creative mind
Latourelle hated school as a teenager and claims he wasn't a good student; he disliked sitting in a classroom for 45 minutes listening to teachers lecture. At 13, he created his own touring show with fellow teenagers. "I just knew that was what I wanted to do." Latourelle dropped out of school altogether at 16 and worked on various performances as producer, editor, booker, trucker, audio tech, light designer and artist manager. This life experience served him well in co-founding Cirque du Soleil in 1983 at 28.
It was after leaving Cirque that Latourelle decided to create Cavalia, Odysseo's prequel, even though he didn't consider himself a horse person. Cavalia continues, having drawn over 4 million people since 2003. "Odysseo is a combination of everything I know as a creator and also as a producer," he said. "I took everything I know and I put it in there."
3. You don't have be a "horse person" to enjoy the show
"If you look at the statistics, there is no way that in this area or the southern part of California that you have 200,000 riders or horse lovers," Latourelle said. "So that just tells me that we reached people who don't know about horses, who just want to go and watch something different."
You don't have to be a certain type of person to appreciate Odysseo's beauty. A beautiful man-made forest greets audience members as they take their seats, with a soundtrack of soft, inviting instrumentals composed by Michel Cusson played live by musicians from balconies on both sides of the stage. All sorts of unexpected action starts taking place almost from the start: gymnasts perform balancing and twirling from the beams of a giant carousel that drops from the ceiling. Aerialists fly and spin through the air or ribbons and rings with elegance. Self-taught acrobats from Guinea (who help fund a circus school in their home country) sing their native songs and create human pyramids. And we haven't even gotten to the horses...
2. The horses are treated with respect and like a crowd
When the horses leave Orange County, they will fly away in a Boeing 747 that functions as their own "personal jet" to Vancouver for a 14-day "vacation" at a farm; this happens after every stop on a tour. They work out 30 minutes twice a day, relax and run in the sun for a least an hour a day. All this relaxing translates into performances that seem effortless and even joyous.
Though the horses spend a lot of time with their trainers, they are not pushed to do exactly what the trainer wants them to do. Latourelle wants the horses to be part of an ensemble, not as though they are competing. "You see not only beautiful horses, but horses that are in peace," he said. "They don't feel threatened, they don't feel, ya know... they have a great life, they do feel that they have a great life."
1. This is Odysseo's last stop in Orange County—EVER
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Odysseo has only been to Orange County once before the current run, but Latourelle says this is the last time the show will swing by here "There is a limit of how many times you can return and this is the last one," he said. "After we leave here, we will probably surpass 200,000 spectators—tell me one show that's done 200,000 spectators in Orange County? I'm telling you none—it's time to come."
Latourelle feels that Orange County has seen enough of this performance, and will move on and not look back. So heed the man's advice and buy a ticket or 20—the last show is early next month.
"Odysseo will never be surpassed as a touring show," Latourelle said. "I don't believe—Cavalia is more human, Odysseo is more mammoth."
Odysseo is happening at 16720 Laguna Canyon Road, Irvine, CA 92603 www.cavalia.net with the last showing January 8, 2017.