“O” blends music, swimming and acrobatics into a magnificent whole
By Nina King
Who actually volunteers to be in a Las Vegas show? Well, it seems almost everyone who sits in the front section is up for a little action. Take, for example, the young man in the audience at “O” the other night.
Just another Johnny-come-lately to the theater, he was impressed into his volunteer role before the curtain rose, by a coterie of characters who serve as your introduction to the magical world of “O.” At first a bit hesitant, he soon joins in the prelude to the show, where those clowns mischievously frolic, footmen balance in harnesses and an aerial artist arrives from above the audience. The “manager” of the production soon takes our volunteer in hand and has him read the typical “turn off those crazy cell phones now” manifesto, after which he is unceremoniously plucked from the stage and pitched behind the curtain. Perhaps our volunteer is a little more willing than we realized.
The production of “O” itself makes a spectacular entrance, as the crimson curtain is not so much peeled back from, but pulled into the abyss of a glittering pool. Immediately, the viewer is immersed in a dreamlike world, where a natural environment has vestiges of unconnected thoughts hanging about, like a pair of costumes just waiting for a king or queen to fill them out. Synchronized swimmers splash, “zebras” cavort on the side of the pool and birds dive about. Enchanting music fills the theater as a diva with an amazing voice, and a huge costume, descends from above.
That act is representative of the surrealistic images that flow through the remainder of the show as our intrepid volunteer traipses around the pool, weaving in and out of other waterside scenes.
In one, two clowns travel about on the top of a floating house, providing a comic relief to the physical exploits of other performers. In another, a skeletal boat glides through the air, and a team of acrobats swings the bateau as performers navigate above the pool. In other scenes, platforms silently appear, providing acrobats an environment in which to ply their trade—contortionists balancing on small pads, an energetic fire act and a veritable human torch that doesn’t even seem to notice the flames lapping around him.
Throughout the scenes, the production’s celebrated synchronized swimmers play various fanciful creatures teeming in the water. Often, the line between acrobat and swimmer seems blurred. From one floating deck, gymnasts perform balancing acts as others pop in and out of the water in amazingly quick succession, each entrance and exit meticulously timed. A high-diving trio swooshes through the air in front of you and a trapeze artist touches both water and air. Three sets of Russian swings fling divers through the air.
Throughout it all, our volunteer watches and waits and joins in, till from a floating basket the enormous red curtain unfurls and he leaves as he entered, like us just another witness to the magnificence of “O.”