Cirque du Soleil will be performing in Florida in July 2017 with “OVO,” its newest touring show in arenas. The show will perform in Sunrise at the BB&T Center from July 13-July 23 and in Miami at the American Airlines Arena from July 28-30 as part of a global tour in arenas around North America.
Thrilling more than 5 million people worldwide since the show premiered in Montreal in 2009 as a Big Top show, “OVO” will embark on a new journey, performing the same captivating production, but now in arenas, giving more people the opportunity to enjoy a Cirque du Soleil show in their own town.
“OVO,” meaning “egg” in Portuguese, is a headlong rush into a colorful ecosystem teeming with life, where insects work, eat, crawl, flutter, play, fight and look for love in a non-stop riot of energy and movement.
When a mysterious egg appears in their midst, the insects are awestruck and intensely curious about this iconic object that represents the enigma and cycles of their lives. It is love at first sight when a gawky, quirky insect arrives in this bustling community and a fabulous ladybug catches his eye – and the feeling is mutual.
Cirque du Soleil has brought wonder and delight to more than 160 million spectators in more than 400 cities on six continents. Cirque du Soleil has close to 4,000 employees, including 1,300 performing artists from close to 50 different countries.
It was a pleasure to sit down with the Artistic Director of “OVO,” Tim Bennett, for this exclusive Hotspots interview:
What was your first job in a theater?
At 19 I was hired to do a dance show at Hershey Park in central PA. It’s a theme park adjacent to the chocolate factory. That was my first professional job.
When did you know entertainment would be your career?
I always did school plays growing up, but when I was in junior high school I started to feel the very strong urge to go into acting. The summer after I graduated from Junior High, I went to NYC (first time) and saw my first Broadway show – the original production of ‘Chicago.” I was so impressed and inspired by it, that I decided there was nothing else that would fulfill me as much as working as an actor.
When you were acting, what was your favorite part(s)?
I’ve always loved farces – classic 5 door farces with fast paced action, mistaken identities, chases, slamming doors, bad puns, and girls in their underwear. There was a farce called “Scapino” that was a modern day telling of an old Moliere play. Jim Dale had done it on Broadway back in the 1970s. I had the opportunity to play the title role and had more fun with it than any other role that I’ve ever done.
You have also directed many shows, other than Cirque, which was your favorite(s)?
I have two – because they were very different jobs. The first is “The Lion King,” where I was the Resident Director of the Las Vegas company. I enjoyed working on “Lion King” more than any other show. I love the story and its universal message, the music, and the many styles of storytelling – from puppetry, shadow play, clowning, modern dance, praise poetry, and classic musical theatre. We also had a wonderful cast of Broadway veterans, who were amazing artists. Being able to work on that show was a real gift.
But I didn’t create “Lion King,” as Resident Director I maintained it. As an original director/choreographer, my favorite show was “Urinetown.” I love the story and message of it, as well as the very farcical playful way that it is written. I also love the opportunity as a choreographer, to create material that pays homage to (some say parodies) other classic musicals and their styles.
How did you come to get hired by Cirque?
I saw my first Cirque show, “NouvelleExperience,” on the Santa Monica Pier back in the early 1990’s and absolutely fell in love with it. The wild imagination that spawned the costumes, music, make-up, and Cirque environment, as well as the incredible acrobatics blew my mind. I thought that it was one of the most creative shows that I had ever seen, and thought to myself “I really want to work with this new company Cirque du Soleil.” At the time, I was still a performer but I had no acrobatic skills, so there wasn’t a place for me. Fast forward a few years to when I moved to Las Vegas with “The Lion King.” There I was surrounded by Cirque shows, and I went to see every one of them. My passion to work for Cirque was reignited. My job at “The Lion King,” was very similar to what I do for Cirque, and when “The Lion King,” eventually closed, I reached out to Cirque right away.
Your title is Artistic Director. What exactly does that entail?
I’m responsible for the artistic integrity of the show. My job is make sure that the show is as exciting, surprising, fresh, and looks as great as it did on the day that it opened. I’m also responsible to maintain the original director’s vision of the show. I do whatever is necessary to make sure that happens. I run rehearsals, work with the coaches in trainings, cast and integrate new artists, work with the Performance Medicine teams to keep the acrobats healthy and rehabilitate injuries, give notes on the shows to artists and the technical departments, add new acts or change existing ones, and coordinate with the PR teams to create events. I also do a lot of operations work from budgeting to scheduling, to casting, and long range planning for the show.
I’m not going to ask you what your favorite part of “OVO” is as I think that would be unfair, but is there a particular act that gets talked about more than the rest?
We have a few unique acts that come up a lot in conversation because they aren’t seen a lot of places, or because our particular take on them is different and special. We have a Chinese “foot juggling” act that most people haven’t ever seen before. It’s a team of 6 Chinese acrobat Ants who juggle various pieces of their “food” and then eventually each other…with their feet.
We have an act that is a combination of trampoline and a crazy huge climbing wall – the biggest of its kind. Since crickets can jump 300 times their body height, we have our crickets jumping, bouncing, and leaping all over the wall via the trampolines. Finally, we have a straps act where our two butterflies soar and dance at the top of the arena in what is the most beautiful and exciting love duet that I’ve ever seen. Audience members always comment about it.
What makes “OVO” special, and what should the South Florida audiences expect from “OVO”?
There are a number of things that make “OVO” unique. It is one of the most playful, colorful, positive, and energetic of Cirque’s shows. It also has a great Brazilian flavor – from its samba music to its characters, to its name (OVO is Portuguese for “egg.”) We also have some of the top circus artists in the world, working alongside Olympic gymnasts and world champion acrobats in some acts that are pretty unique. It’s not a Cirque show that you’ve ever seen before.
But I think what makes it the most special is its message. It’s a story of inclusion, and how a community of insects first reject a “Foreigner” insect because he is different from them. They don’t understand him or his ways and therefore they are threatened by him. Over the course of the story, they realize that they and the stranger are more alike than they are different, and they come to understand and eventually accept and even love him.
What I really love is that “OVO” is a wonderful representation of the culture and world of Cirque du Soleil itself. Inclusion is one of the greatest strengths at Cirque. Our production consists of a troupe of over 100 artists, technicians, and staff from 21 different countries working together as story tellers to amaze and delight audiences. We are a mix of many languages, skin colors, religions, and cultures – French, Russian, American, Ukranian, Brazilian, British…and many more. We work as a team without regard to politics or borders, and the trust between us has to be uncompromising. If we can all work together at the circus to do what we do, there is no reason why others around the world can’t do the same.
Tickets which start at $35 for adults (subject to change) and $25 for children. Senior, military, student discounts and family 4-packs are all available at cirquedusoleil.com/ovo.