Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cavalia: The New Big Top in Denver?

A Slow Start with a Strong Finish

As I headed toward the white, big top-style tents easily spotted from I-25 in Denver, my curiosity about Cavalia was piqued, to say the least. With its myriad of international performers and more than 60 horses—a good number of them stallions—the show has been touted as “Cirque de Soleil with horses.” The magnificent imagery enveloping the entrance and the enchanting melodies being piped through the tents set the stage for a stunning performance.

To open the show, a solo cellist played as images of spring were projected onto a 70-foot-long screen. The audience was primed to be wowed, yet the first few numbers left much to be desired, despite the rich colors and textures of the set, costumes and projections. Slow moving and with no real cohesiveness, the disjointed acts felt more like vignettes using the horses as props. The show itself felt as if it was holding back.

Things improved after intermission, as if the first half of the show had been a bit of a hustle before the big revelation. Even the simpler numbers, in which the horses almost seemed to be roaming freely, had a completely different feel. Witnessing some of the most spectacular horse breeds, including a variety of Arabians, calmly and naturally interacting on stage with no apparent cues from a trainer, was poetry at its very essence. The magnificence and beauty of the fantastical creatures revealed itself in even the most subtle movements and gestures. Imagine stepping into the enchanted forest of a fairy tale and you will get a sense of this simple yet breathtaking performance. This is what the audience was waiting for, with plenty of aerials and acrobatics coupled with expert lighting and consistently high-quality live music performed behind a scrim. The energy stayed high during what felt like an hour-long (yet very welcome) finale. Horse after horse charged across the stage, and the performers displayed endless energy while doing some truly jaw-dropping tricks. “Cavalia” ended with a bang that kept going for nearly the entire second half of the show.

Even amidst these heart-pumping theatrics, the favorite of the crowd was far and away the “Grande Liberté.” Both the performer and her horses put on a show that was not only artistically innovative but also so highly technical and well-executed that I could have watched an entire program of just her on stage, handling these horses with grace and precision, and the horses' reciprocal elegance and dexterity.

With a running time well over two hours, beginning at 8pm (earlier for the weekend matinees), and fairly high ticket prices (adult tickets range from $34.50 to $189.50), “Cavalia” is definitely an investment. While the higher-priced tickets include extras such as a visit to the stables after the show, going with a more economical ticket might be your best option. For the horses' well-being, no audience member visiting the stables is allowed to pet them. So, although seeing some absolutely beautiful horses is a nice extra, you can still get the full experience while saving a bit of cash.

In a time when movies often miss the mark and live shows repeat permutations of the same old thing, “Cavalia,” even with its slow start, injects much-needed energy into the entertainment scene.

“Cavalia” runs through Sunday, Oct. 17, at the Pepsi Center in Denver. For tickets, visit or call 1-866-999-8111.

No comments: