My Gay Toronto - Bellini's 8 1/2


by Paul Bellini

Cavalia is a Quebec-based family company that specializes in big, Cirque du Soleil type productions involving horses. Sounds good, no? But even the TV ads and the hype did not prepare me for one of the awesomest shows ever.

Everything about their new show Odysseo is big! 70 horses, dozens of acrobats, a gigantic stage (I am not kidding – the stage area is 35,000 square feet!), live music, amazing stagecraft. The mind boggles. Even better, the opening night VIP event I went to was catered, offered free booze, free parking, free programs. What can I say except welcome to Toronto, Odysseo!

My boyfriend Georges and I attended the show, a star-studded evening. Spotted in the audience were Jayne Eastwood, Gavin Crawford, Don McKellar, Jeanne Beker and of course, Keith Cole. I am certain all of them were as gob-smacked as we were. The show begins gently enough, with gorgeous horses of various breeds roaming around. (These horses are so trained and pampered and groomed that they are like real Hollywood divas, but without the addictions.)

Then they start galloping and jumping. Some human acrobats also run out and begin doing backflips at tremendous speeds. It looked like a digital effect, except it was real. The background is a huge screen on which they projected various vistas, from Monument Valley to Easter Island to a giant waterfall. The riders did various tricks, including standing atop two galloping horses at once. I can’t remember how many times I muttered “Wow” during this show.

There were minor distractions. Horses, being what they are, will take a dump anywhere at any time. Often I watched in wonder as the performers executed brilliant acrobatic moves while gingerly sidestepping any turds. But when a huge carousel descended from the ceiling, all I could think was, “How much does it cost to put this show on?”

The basic theme of the show is simple – “No more war on earth.” Good luck with that, but for the two-and-a-half hours that you are watching Odysseo, war will be the furthest thing from your mind. In the end, as though to truly blow our minds, the entire sand-filled front area of the stage fills with thousands of gallons of water and the horses take one last run, splashing up a storm while the helpless audience responds with unbridled applause.

If you love spectacle – and what gay guy doesn’t? – then you have to see Odysseo.

Odysseo runs until May 24 under the White Big Top at the Port Lands, 383 Lakeshore Blvd.