Saturday, January 21, 2012

OVO - Cirque du Soleil's Theatrical World of Insects

Watching Cirque du Soleil’s OVO from the front row of the Big Top may not have initially been my first choice of seat locations, but in actuality it ended up being the perfect place to view this particular show. Because of my close proximity to the performers, I was able to see the nuances in their movements in a way that would have been lost at a distance. Every twitch of the head, shimmy in their bodies, and flicker of expression became a show within a show that was as delightful and comical as it was surprising. For that reason, I highly recommend you see OVO close-up.

That’s not to say that OVO’s cast of 55 isn’t also a ridiculously talented group of acrobats that will thrill you both on the ground and in the air as well. They emerge from a cocoon of aerial silks overhead, display precision foot juggling as worker ants, and perform a beautiful and dangerous airborne butterfly ballet suspended on a rope.

The Scarabs Volant trapeze act features six flyers combining disciplines like banquine, Russian swing and swinging chair, and is the most difficult act in the world to execute due to its distance between stations. It is magnificent from every angle. An amazing spider contortionist entices crickets into her lair, and a lone arachnid balances upside down on a unicycle atop a slackwire 15 feet above ground in a performance that had audience members leaping out of their seats in a standing ovation upon its completion.

But nowhere is the dazzling speed and agility of the artists more evident than in the final act in which 20 artists come together in a stunningly choreographed gravity-defying series of acrobatics, up a floor-to-ceiling vertical wall, using only a power track, hidden trampolines, and their own strength to propel them.

OVO premiered in Montreal in 2009 and will offer performances at Santa Monica Pier through March 11 before continuing its trek across North America. Writer/director & choreographer Deborah Colker is Cirque du Soleil’s first female director and the creative force behind the show. She has conceived an OVO that captures the constant swirl of activity in the insect world and focuses our rapt attention in a place we often overlook.

The story line features three distinct characters – a Fly, a Ladybug, and Master Flipo, the chief of the insects. Fly wanders into the insects’ midst carrying a mystical egg (ovo is the Portuguese word for “egg”) which becomes a source of great fascination for the bugs. When he meets a roly-poly cute-as-a-button Ladybug, the buzzing and cooing becomes a sweet courtship, with Master Flipo egging on the suitor amid large doses of humor and clownish interaction with the audience.

Berna Ceppas’ Brazilian musical score for OVO combines the sounds of bossa nova and samba with funk and electro music, and incorporates actual insect sounds into its ever-shifting soundscape, all performed live by a band of cockroaches. They make a sensual accompaniment to the crazy action.

Costumes by Liz Vandal are especially beautiful in their intricate detail, built for flight and embellished with detachable fantasy pieces. The lace wing legs of the dragonfly were quite spectacular when the artist balanced upside down, and the emerald green angular legs of the crickets were a source of much careful study. Gringo Cardia's sets, Éric Campoux’s lighting and Julie Bégin's make-up complete the onstage magic.

Those that have seen one will agree there is nothing like a Cirque du Soleil show. Beginning with 20 street performers in 1984, Cirque has grown into an artistic marvel with shows that tour the world delighting audiences on five continents. OVO’s exotic insect soiree, with its unusual creatures and amazing acrobatic feats, is just what the doctor ordered if you’re in the winter doldrums. It’s the best prescription for kids and adults alike.

Tickets are now available online at or at the box office located inside the main entrance tent of the Grand Chapiteau at the Santa Monica Pier. Box office hours are 12:00 pm - end of show Tues thru Sat; 11:00 am - end of show on Sunday and will be closed on all Monday’s and the following Tuesdays: Feb 7, 28 & March 20.

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