Directed by Érick Villeneuve


Equestrian Choreography by Frédéric Pignon and Magali Delgado

Under the Bigtop at Jackson and Racine

Cavalia, the hugely hyped equestrian show from Cirque du Soleil pioneer Normand Latourelle, is one of the biggest disappointments I can remember.  Despite vast production budgets and an array of dazzling technical effects, the show is a slow paced yawner that simply does not entertain.  The most astounding feat in this tent is that director Érick Villeneuve could put so much in and get so little out.

I am a big circus fan and I love horses, so I was certain that this was a show I would swoon over.  Cavalia has a large collection of beautiful horses and they perform some choreography that approaches ballet at times.  Unfortunately, the presentation is so slowly paced that it never captured my interest and I thought the first act would never end.  This was made even worse by Michel Cusson’s dreary and pretentious score which seems less homage to horses than to Yanni on barbiturates.  There are a few livelier moments late in the second act, but on opening night there were also a fair number of vacated seats in the tent by the time those rolled around.  Even some of the acrobatic stunts looked a bit shaky, which was something that took me completely by surprise.


Good manners dictate that I find something nice to say about this famous visiting troupe, so I will quickly run down a few moments that I did enjoy.  Mathieu Pignon performs two playful equestrian dances– with a solo horse in the first act and with a trio in the second act – that are truly touching.  There is such chemistry between this man and his animals that it can only be called love.  In the category of too little, way too late, there is a series of gallops across the stage that features a large number of riders performing lightening quick tricks as their horses gallop straight across from wing to wing.  As big as the tent is, the space does constrain the horses and this is the only time the audience gets to see them in rapid motion.  The Trick Riding number follows Pignon’s second act dance and is combined with some rather good acrobatic tricks from Coen Clarke, Maxim Panteleenko and Jason Fergusson on the Russian bar and Carey Hackett in a Cirque-du-Soleil-style pole mime.  Had the show managed to get to the level of these 15 minutes or so of action even occasionally in the first act, the evening would have been different and the applause at the end would have been more enthusiastic.  There are also a host of brilliant multi-media effects, though many of them are wasted or terribly mismatched with the awful score.  When you put the high-end ticket price on top of everything else, the only conclusion you can come to about Cavalia is skip it.


Randy Hardwick

Under the Bigtop, Jackson & Racine, Chicago, IL, tickets $45.50-$98.50, Tue-Sun at 8:00 p.m.,matinees Sat at 2:00 & Sun at 3:00. Thru August 2nd.   2 hours and 45 minutes with one intermission.