Cavalia: Odysseo founder and artistic director Normand Latourelle had a few butterflies prior to the U.S. premiere of his latest spectacle Wednesday night in Atlanta. Recalling his first Cavalia experience in Atlanta, Normand Latourelle allowed, “I was freaking out because there were no ticket sales 10 days before we opened! I had people in the front office asking me what was going on.” The French-Canadian artist paused for a moment and then added: “Atlantans are just not, how do you say, pro-active like the other cities we play.”
Welcome back to Atlanta, Normand Latourelle. The city that has perfected the art of arriving well past the scheduled eight o’clock curtain time and then spilling our plastic wine glass of chardonnay all over you as we grope our way in the dark to our seats.
In the end, Cavalia: Odysseo producers only had to hold their horses for 15 minutes Wednesday night as the jaw-dropping show galloped to life in America for the first time under the enormous 220,000 square-foot white tent at Technology Square in Midtown (conveniently located across the street from The Cheetah). The opening night audience routinely gasped as 69 horses and 55 Cavalia: Odysseo riders, acrobats and musicians merged to create art on 27,000-foot stage built out of 20,000 tons of stones, dirt and sand.
And unlike the draftier white tents of previous shows held at Atlantic Station, attendees were kept nice and comfortable inside Cavalia: Odysseo Wednesday night, even as a winter wind whipped around outside. Among the notable patrons we spotted in the opening night audience: Action News anchor Monica Pearson and her husband John Pearson, Atlanta city councilmen Kwanza Hall and H. Lamar Willis, PR maven Toren Anderson and veteran politico Tom Houck.
During the show’s 30-minute intermission at 9:10 p.m., VIPs pushed their way into the Rendezvous Lounge to enjoy coffee, wine, popcorn, fresh-cut fruit and chocolate-dipped strawberries as they talked excitedly about the show. Latourelle was no doubt relieved. While Atlantans are slow to plan, the city excels at spreading word of mouth and creating buzz. A fact Latourelle also recalls from his first visit in the first half of this decade.
“By the time we left Atlanta, we had broken sales records!” he told us. “A week after the opening we just added shows, added shows and added shows. It was a nice position to be in. We actually delayed our next stop in Miami because the demand was so great in Atlanta. It helps when you create your own theater and you’re not depending on someone else’s. We get to decide when we leave, which is nice. Atlanta is slower than other markets. That’s just a reality. But it helps that I went through it the first time. We have created one of the most beautiful touring shows in the world. That’s because of the horses. I had created and produced shows for 35 years knowing nothing about horses. Now, I’ve been around horses for the past 10 years and they continue to surprise me every day. The horses have inspired the creativity and that next artistic step you see in Odysseo. For me, the horse is a speaker of nature and nature is ever-evolving. It’s an ever-changing story for us to watch and learn from. It’s a joy to for us to bring that to audiences each night.”
Cavalia: Odysseo is scheduled to run through January 8 in Atlanta. For tickets or more info, go to cavalia.net.