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Ovo (Cirque du Soleil)

Eye-filling costumes create the secret world of insects in this sophisticated, elegant extravaganza.

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Ants in the Foot Juggling Number in Cirque du Soleil’s “Ovo” (Photo credit: Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil)

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Eye-filling costumes create the Secret World of Insects in this sophisticated, elegant extravaganza that is more for adults than children as it is low on the wow factor, but beautiful to behold. Ovo, Cirque du Soleil’s latest show to reach New York, is a touring arena production of the Big Top show that began in Montreal in 2009. The first Cirque du Soleil show created and directed by a woman (Brazilian choreographer Deborah Colker), Ovo depicts the “colorful ecosystem where insects work, eat, crawl, flutter, play, fight and look for love.” The musical score by Berna Ceppas, a compatriot of Colker’s, combines bossa nova and samba with funk and electro music and is sung by onstage vocalist Julia Barros Marmund, from Brazil, along with a seven piece band, all dressed as bright red Cockroaches. The cast of Ovo comprise 50 performing artists from 12 countries.

The best part of the show is the dazzling and varied costumes by Liz Vandal which approximate the many insect creatures depicted. The detail is so remarkable that it gets a bit lost in the huge area using only half of the large Barclays Center. While the gymnastic and acrobatic acts are backed by a continuously changing streaming video projected on The Wall (64 feet wide by 30 feet tall) of the natural habitat of these insects, unless you are sitting in the center of the arena, it does not line up with the show.

Dragonfly Handbalancing act in Cirque du Soleil’s “Ovo” (Photo credit: Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil)

The Wall is also used by the performers who climb on it, disappear into it, and use it as both a platform and a launching pad. The most remarkable act is the finale – the “Trampo Wall” performed by the ten Crickets in green. A colony of Crickets run, jump, and travel straight up the four story vertical wall without artificial support. They also use air track and trampolines to take flight from the back of the stage to the very apron. One watches with bated breath in absolute disbelief.

The show is framed first by a giant egg (Ovo in Portuguese) and then by an all blue Foreign Insect (a Fly, Jan Dutler of Switzerland) who arrives carrying a smaller version on his back. (We never do find out what is inside of either egg.) A voluptuous Ladybug in orange, black and pink (Michelle Matlock, USA) is smitten with him and they begin a flirtation which lasts throughout the show. He threatens to unseat Master Flipo, (Gerard Regitschnig, Austria), a Scarab Beetle in red and black, the most senior insect of the community. These characters also interact with the audience and on several occasions bring spectators up on stage to participate in their flirtation.

Spider’s Contortion act in Cirque du Soleil’s “Ovo” (Photo credit: Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil)

The show is made up of eleven acts, both acrobatic and gymnastic, in the two halves of the performance. After the parade of creatures, the first perfomance is Foot Juggling and Icarian Games by six red and black Ants. Using enormous (for the insects) slices of kiwis and corn, they juggle them on their feet – and eventually each other. On a delicate green rotating sculpture meant to look like slender stalks, a supple blue Dragonfly (Kyle Cragle) performs graceful balancing acts in and among the tendrils of the plant, including standing upside down on the very top.

Svetlana Delous (Canada) first appears wrapped in a Cocoonin a sensuous ballet, and then makes her metamorphosis into a Butterfly joined by two other white Butterflies with subtle black trim (Catherine Audy and Alexis Trudel, both from Canada) who perform ballet and aerial contortion using Duo Straps. They are succeeded by the red and green Firefly (Tony Frebourg, France) using the high speed Diabolo spinning first one, then two, then three and then unbelievable four spools simultaneously.

Acro Fleas in Cirque du Soleil’s “Ovo” at the Finale (Photo credit: Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil)

Next is the multicolored Creatura (Sergey Rysenko, Ukraine), part slinky, part insect, looking like a worm or caterpillar in five part as he twists and bends in constant motion. The first half of Ovo ends with ten Scarabs in gold and brown performing the Russian Cradle, a breathtaking aerial act in which they soar high over the arena from the edges to the middle, a distance of six meters from the catchers on the towers.

The second half begins with the Web, an incredible display of flexibility as a statuesque Spider contortionist in white (flank by one in red and one in black) creates unbelievable poses that create a sensuous mood. (Ariunsanaa Bataa, Mongolia; Alanna Baker, United Kingdom; Svetlana Delous, Canada). Eventually they are watched by a group of green Crickets who are their prey. Then a pair of red and yellow male Fleas (Anatolii Boiko, Ukraine; Nikolay Kakryachkin, Russia) throw a female Flea (Inna Bekmamadova) into the air in balletic acrobatics in the Acrosport event.

The company of Cirque du Soleil’s “Ovo” as they appear in the Finale (Photo credit: Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil)

Next up is Jianming Qui from China as a Male Spider in black, white and red who performs on the Slackwire. First he balances on the swinging circular wire suspended high above the stage, where he is sometimes upside down. His balancing becomes more and more precarious until he rides a Unicycle on the constantly moving wire. Saving the best for last, the final act of the ten green Crickets makes use of Powertrack, Trampoline and the Wall at the back of the arena as they leap from the floor to the top of the Wall and then in two leaps, reach the apron of the stage almost into the lap of the audience.

Unlike other Cirque du Soleil shows, Ovo is more about movement than traditional acrobatics. In human scale the Insect world is vibrant brought to life. It is a gracefully refined show that is for mature taste, caviar to the general, as Hamlet would say. While it includes stunning flying acts, its pleasures are understated and ethereal and to be savored slowly.

Ovo (Cirque du Soleil)
Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn (July 5 – 9, 2017)
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Long Island, 1255 Hempstead Turnpike, Uniondale 11553 (August 30 – September 3, 2017)
For tickets, call 800-745-3000 or visit
Running time: two hours and ten minutes with an intermission

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Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (936 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

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