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A Dad's Theatre Review: "Cavalia" at Marymoor Park

cavalia-officialBy John Kubalak

Cavalia is ballet, performance art, circus, and spectacle - all with horses. The show, which opened in Marymoor Park in Redmond on Friday after a snowstorm-related delay, runs through February 19 with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. It can be an expensive evening but if your children – or you -- are obsessed with horses, it’s worth it.

And if you are not obsessed with horses, you’ll still find a unique and magical evening of entertainment featuring impressive animals and acts you are not likely to see anywhere else.

Before our family went, we weren't sure what to make of it beyond the fact that Larry King says it's the best show he's ever seen -- according to the billboards all over town -- or that it was speculated to be Cirque du Soleil with horses (Cavalia and Cirque share the same cofounder). That is true, sort of.  It has lavish sets and costumes with staging built around mythical themes. It has circus arts with aerialists, gymnasts, dancers, and musicians. But instead of going off into a world of fantasy, Cavalia is very much grounded and inspired by the horse. These animals -- 55 horses from a dozen different breeds -- are not just set pieces; they are magnificent performers that bring a unique dimension to the show.

Horses wandering out onto the stage is a recurring motif. For example, in one of the final acts, six horses came wandering out onto the stage. A girl comes out and wanders among them and after a few minutes the scene shifts and the six horses are moving around her in intricate patterns. It's very impressive and was one of my daughter's favorite scenes.

The finale is very satisfying in its spectacle, building to a crescendo like the finish to a fireworks show with big explosive movements happening all around the stage, in the air, and with the music. It's a full-blown combination of trick riding at full gallop back and forth across the stage, a gymnast flipping through the air on a Russian bar, and female aerialists swinging and spinning in a bungee trapeze routine.

The show is staged in the largest tent in North America -- a spectacle in itself -- although the stage is not in the round like a traditional circus. The seats are lined up straight opposite the performance area and a giant curtain that doubles as a projection screen.

The horses and performers enter and exit -- often at high speed -- through curtains at either end of the stage. The seats are steeply raked so even if you're in the back you have a pretty good view. If you have smaller children be sure to ask an usher for a seat cushion, they run out quickly. And if you're in the back rows bring opera glasses so you can get a better view of some of the small action that happens on stage. If you can afford to purchase tickets for the front rows there's no denying the visceral impact of being so close as the horses go thundering back and forth.

Because the show runs two and a half hours total (with a half hour intermission) the 8 p.m. shows go very late -- something to consider if you have young children. Happily, there are matinees on Saturdays and Sundays but get your tickets now, word is the show is selling out fast and they've already added additional dates.

If you go:

When: Through February 19 (extra shows have been added). Tuesday-Saturday, 8 p.m. Weekend matinees: Saturdays, 3 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.

Where: Marymoor Park, Redmond

Prices: $22.50-$199.50. There are a number of packages, including a Valentine's Day event.

Tickets and information:

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