CINCINNATI -- The phrase “busy as a bee” is appropriate for Cirque du Soleil’s “OVO,” which opened Thursday night at U.S. Bank Arena.
While there technically aren’t any bees in this show, there is a wide array of other insect life, including fleas, crickets, a ladybug and spiders. Fifty performers from across the world bring to life a harmonious, colorful and busy colony of bugs that has been invaded by an outsider called the “Foreigner,” a bright blue fly.
The Foreigner has brought with him a giant egg, the namesake of the show. The Foreigner is intrigued by the activity that surrounds him and falls in love with the ladybug. He must prove himself worthy of the ladybug’s affection and gain the approval of her fellow citizens, encountering the hustle and bustle of each bug along the way.
“It’s kind of a romantic comedy between bugs,” said show publicist Nicolas Chabot, “and all the different circus acts are performed by different bugs.”
“OVO” is a pretext to showcase these acts -- and show off what these performers can do. A contortionist performs the role of the black spider, interpreting a crawl through body-bending motion. Ants transport their food in packs -- imagined as foot jugglers here, moving giant, hand-painted props of kiwi, eggplant and corn on the soles of their feet.
“OVO” is funny: The main characters, a trio of clowns (the Foreigner, ladybug and a beetle), fill the stage with humorous antics, playing off each other and the buzzing world around them. Even the cast and crew appreciate the humor.
“The funniest part is the faces they make. There’s different layers of the show, always something happening. That’s the cool part -- and they’re all having fun, and you can feel that,” said Victoria Flandes, head of props.
Ovo, which means “egg” in Portugese, is a nod to the homeland of the show’s director, Deborah Colker, and composer Berna Ceppas, who are from Brazil. But it also represents the cycle of life among the insects.
Life as an insect in the colorful, busy “OVO” world doesn’t differ much from life for the performers themselves. They tour for 10 weeks and break for two; in fact, the OVO team has just come off a two-week tour break and Cincinnati is its first stop back in action. The show, which has been touring the United States as an arena performance since April 2016, proved so popular, it received the “flip” treatment, converting from a big-top tent version to its current arena iteration.
Performers, recruited from around the world, train at Cirque headquarters in Montreal before being integrated into the show and rehearse on a “jungle gym” structure backstage at the arenas where they perform. The OVO cast and crew move together, from a catering team that travels with them to the washers and dryers taken to every stop. The harmony of a successful performance ties everything and everyone together.
“A technician from the U.S. and a Mongolian artist … don’t see things the same way, but we still have the same goal of doing the show every night. We all have different roles, and we have to be this functional community together,” said Chabot.
Cirque du Soleil presents “OVO”
7:30 p.m. Friday; 4 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 1:30 and 5 p.m. Sunday
U.S. Bank Arena, 100 Broadway, Downtown
By the numbers
- 50 performers, including acrobats, contortionists, clowns, slack wire artists and more
- 21 different countries of origin
- 50 crew and staff members
- 12 different languages spoken by the cast and crew
- 176 pieces of personal luggage
- 80-100 local technicians hired (IATSE Local 5)
- Two physiotherapists
- Three stage managers
- Three coaches
- Three to four costumes for each performer (washed after every performance)
- Six washers and two dryers brought on tour
- 1,000 pieces of costumes, including shoes, wigs, headpieces, etc.
- 25 minutes to 1.25 hours for makeup each night -- every performer does their own
- Aerial straps
- Slackwire walker
- Aerial cradle
- Foot juggling
- Hand balancing