A scene from Ovo
(© Benoit Fontaine)
A scene from Ovo
(© Benoit Fontaine)
Ovo, the newest touring show from Cirque du Soleil, now at the Grand Chapiteau on Randall's Island, spins an irresistible web of enchantment for audiences. Director Deborah Colker's production takes audiences to the bottom of a forest floor and into its trees, where ants, fleas, spiders, fireflies, butterflies -- and even some cockroaches -- spring to life extraordinarily on stage.

At this juncture, the types of acts that are part of a Cirque production are exceedingly familiar, and yet, there's a freshness to them in Ovo. Part of this sense of newness comes from the incredible design elements for the insect-inspired show: Marjorie Nantel's aerial silk routine, for instance, depicts a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. As she weaves herself within the diaphanous fabric that dangles from the ceiling of the tent, and then emerges from it with the cloth draped from her arms like wings, the sense of having seen this graceful creature come to life on stage is complete. This impression is enhanced in no small measure by the astonishingly vibrant and delicate lighting design.

Another reason for the newly minted feeling of the Cirque traditions is the totality of the universe that Colker gives the production. While solo acts unfold depicting one bug, other creatures cavort in the background or interact with the featured performer. Nowhere is this more entrancing than in the contortionist routine which is set within a gigantic spiderweb. The act is led by Iuliia Mykhailova, who astonishes with her talent all the while maintaining a certain arachnid demeanor. As she performs, crickets leap about within the confines of the web before being ensnared in it.

Beyond the gorgeous trappings that surround the acts and the overall concept of the production, Ovo springs to life quite simply because of the incredible variations that certain sequences contain. Most notably Maxim Kozlov and Inna Mayorova, who create one of the most romantic aerial acts imaginable; Li West, whose sinuous turn culminates in his propelling a unicycle across a highwire in the most surprising of ways; and a quintet of foot-jugglers playing ants, who put a new and singularly acrobatic spin on plate twirling.

Throughout, a trio of clowns (Michelle Matlock Leblanc, Joseph Collard, François-Guillaume) delight with their antics, which includes a romance between Matlock's sassy ladybug character and Collard's weirdly spiny-bug creature. Meanwhile, François-Guillaume, who has a goofball, Bozo the Clown inspired persona, is partiuclarly hysterical when he tries to give Collard some advice on love -- complete with audience participation.

Berna Ceppas has created a lush score that draws upon a wealth of traditions, including new age, classic jazz, Afro-Cuban, and Motown. Equally impressive are Liz Vandal's eye-popping costumes that transform the humans into insects.

Ovo concludes with a trampoline act which uses the back wall of Gringo Cardia's consistently surprising scenic design to incredible, gravity-defying effect. As astounding as the artists' work is though, what truly amazes during the finale is the way in which perspective and scale give the impression that all of the performers have suddenly been reduced to the size of bugs. It's a truly electrifying end to this enormously appealing show.