Java Post, Surabaya, Indonesia
“The atmosphere was suddenly silent. Spectators were tense and anxious when Naomi was about to launch the arrow. One spectator closes her eyes in fear. But, some are still watching with tense faces. A few seconds after that, the tense atmosphere is instantly transformed into festive applause from the audience. "Hooray," the audience cheers when the arrow falls right on target without injuring the player's body.” -
December 26, 2016
City Guide Macau, China
The crowd was also left in awe of the crossbow-wielding wizardry of Mr. & Mrs. G., a.k.a. Ottavio and Naomi – seasoned professionals with uncanny accuracy and a flair for the dramatic.
March 31, 2016
"and if you’re looking for a little heart-racing danger, Mr. and Mrs. G bring it with their crossbow sharpshooting, nailing apples, targets and other objects within centimeters of each other’s heads (and other body parts).” - Mark Lowry
December 30, 2014
The Dallas Morning News
“New acts dazzle: Mr. and Mrs. G. (Ottavio Gesmundo and Naomi Brenkman-Gesmundo) could challenge Katniss on their crossbows”- Nancy Churnin
December 29, 2014
"The only place on Atlantic Avenue you can see a man shoot an apple off his wifeʼs head and not end up in divorce court." "She looks in full agreement with the plan. She even takes a bite out of the apple afterward." - Mal Vincent
JUNE 29, 2013
"The woman sitting behind me kept her eyes completely closed during the mesmerizing performance of husband and wife duo, Ottavio and Naomi Gesmundo. Their act consists of Ottavio using a crossbow to shoot an arrow while Naomi holds various objects, shrinking in size each time." -Yiorgo
JUNE 27, 2013
"Their death-defying acts will truly amaze you! There were multiple times when my heart skipped a beat wondering if they were gonna succeed or get seriously injured." - David Adam Beloff
JUNE 25, 2013
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
“It's fun to watch Gesmundo and spouse Naomi engage in the foreplay of shooting balloons attached to one another's body parts” -Michael Weatherford
JUNE 10, 2011
THE LAS VEGAS SUN
“The scene in which crossbow artist Ottavio Gesmundo fired arrows through inflated balloons covering performing partner Naomi Brenkman was worth the admission price on its own." -John Katsilometes
MAY 25, 2010
CRITICS ACROSS THE COUNTRY HAVE PRAISED OTTAVIO'S STUNT DIRECTION & CHOREOGRAPHY
Spider-Man Live Highlight Reel
THE BOSTON GLOBE
"STUNTS PROPEL THIS SPIDER-MAN" " the production itself, with its special effects and acrobatic fight scenes, is pretty cool." "But the best effects are the slickly choreographed fight stunts - mostly fight scenes. Ottavio Gesmundo guides three superbly trained Spider-Men and various other henchmen, in a dizzying catalog of somersaults, flips, twists, leaps and falls. The fight combine moves from the martial arts with WWF antics, and they look persuasive when combined with a soundtrack of thumps and thwacks."
-Ellen Pfeifer NOVEMBER 7, 2002
“a high-flying action-heavy production based on the Marvel comic book superhero." "Primarily a combo of gymnastics, aerial acrobatics, martial arts and carefully choreographed wrestling and street fighting, plus a lot of explosions and crashes”
-Markland Taylor NOVEMBER 19, 2002
“PACKED WITH THRILLS" "you'll get lots of gymnastic stunts and well-orchestrated hand-to-hand combat all choreographed by Ottavio Gesmundo.”
-Monica Eng JANUARY 16, 2003
THE NEW YORK TIMES
“A HERO WITH LEGS” “This show doesn’t have any Hollywood heavyweights, but it does have lighter than air special effects: Spider-Man climbs walls, flies through space and during final moments swings over the heads of the audience, leaving fans like my son, Mathew, crying, Awesome!”
-Laurel Graeber FEBRUARY 8, 2003
THE STAR TRIBUNE
“Spider-Man Live!" is a thrashing, throbbing, twisting, bouncing, fist-flinging, high-flying testament to testosterone. It is the arranged marriage of Broadway and World Wrestling Entertainment.” “the show's priority: to kick evil's rear end and consequently summon pure primal, cathartic ecstasy. My 4-year old boy, refined for his age in wisdom and gentility, spent half the play standing in his seat, flailing his arms and yelling "Get that Booger Face, Spider-Man! Pow!" "Review: A dizzying display of stage combat, gyrating gymnastic stunts, stage-flight gizmos and pure masculine muscularity"
-Jaime Meyer MARCH 6, 2003
“SPIDER-MAN' DELIGHTS” The movement direction is first rate, as are the stage combat sequences, which are employed a great deal in this compact production.”
-Tony Curulla MARCH 26, 2003
THE BUFFALO NEWS
“The best parts were the terrific stunts - for example, gymnastic routines done on ropes reminiscent of gymnastics rings. Spider-Man hung in front of the Jumbotron screen silhouetted in a gorgeous suspended ballet.”
-Kathleen Rizzo Young MAY 2, 2003
“At its best, this "Pippin" is all about effects… to Ottavio Gesmundo's dazzling stunt work.”
-Malcolm Johnson AUGUST 4, 2006
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
“A raft of circus-style stunts and illusions that would do Cirque du Soleil proud.”
-Eric Marchese JANUARY 5, 2007
The Day - Connecticut
Three Ring Theater
Ottavio Gesmundo brings his circus
background to the Goodspeed stage
By Kristina Dorsey Published on 7/23/2006
Stunt coordinator Ottavio Gesmundo puts Sara Antkowiak-Maier through her aerial paces in preparation for Goodspeed's production of "Pippin."
As stunt coordinator for Goodspeed's production of “Pippin,” Ottavio Gesmundo has to weave together elements of circus and theater traditions — and few people are more qualified than he is to do that.
Gesmundo has worked as everything from stagehand to actor to director over the years, and he comes by his circus talent genetically. He is descended from several generations of big-top performers.
Ringling Bros. brought his grandparents and his mother to America in 1932. The family is fairly renowned in the circus world, with several Guinness World Records to their credit. Among them, his cousin did a triple twisting somersault onto someone else's shoulders and, later on, upped the number of somersaults to improve his own record.
Gesmundo's mother, who doesn't hold a Guinness Record but is in pretty much every circus museum you can find, was the only woman in the world to do a double somersault on a bounding rope, a type of rope that is attached on the side by a bungee cord and is constantly in motion.
His sister can be seen briefly in the James Bond movie “Diamonds Are Forever,” spinning by her teeth. His grandfather, a juggler and animal trainer, appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
“My grandfather was always into making theatrical productions of his circus productions, so he would incorporate dance and singing,” Gesmundo says. “And here I am, incorporating circus elements into theatrical productions.”
Gesmundo guides Sara with the white silks backstage at "The Goodspeed.
Here, for now, is Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam. His focus is on creating the stunts, particularly the aerial work, for the musical “Pippin.” The concept in “Pippin” — in which the title character searches for his purpose in life and struggles with politics, love and war — is that a group of players put on this particular show in various theaters, Gesmundo says. The players are like a traveling band of multitalented gypsies; they are musicians, acrobats, aerialists. It all fits with the show's opening song, “Magic To Do.”
When casting “Pippin,” Gesmundo made sure he had some performers with aerial experience. He pointed out that aerial work is different from acrobatics. In tumbling, people are pushing things away. In aerial work, they are pulling.
At the opening of this version of “Pippin,” there is a crowd scene, and the audience sees, out of the throng, a woman in a blue feathered cap, looking like a bird, begin to spin on a hoop hanging from the ceiling. She is lifted above the stage.
During a recent rehearsal, he was putting that actress, Sara Antkowiak-Maier, through her paces on the white silks and lyra (which looks like a Hula Hoop) hanging from the ceiling. As Gesmundo told her in calm, encouraging tones what to do, Antkowiak-Maier flipped herself around on the lyra, hanging upside down with her legs in a split. Later she suspends herself gracefully by one hand, with her arms and legs stretched out into a balletic pose. She moved on to the long white curtains of silk hanging from the ceiling, doing similar aerial moves.
Ottavio Gesmundo and Sara Antkowiak-Maier preparing for Goodspeed's production of “Pippin.”
“Cirque du Soleil has kind of opened the market for (this kind of stunt),” Gesmundo says. “But I come from six generations of circus performers, so that is something that has always been ingrained in me. What (Cirque) did was they just packaged it in a different way. They didn't come up with new tricks or new elements. They just presented it in a unique — and great — way.”
Gesmundo's career in show business might have been inevitable, given his family history. But the moment that he decided it had to be his future didn't have much to do with that circus legacy. He was watching his sister perform in a Vegas show called “Spice on Ice.”
“I was 7 or 8, and I remember sitting backstage. All the show girls, they'd be coming offstage, scantily clad, and they'd come up to me, 'Oh, you're such a cute little boy!' From that moment on, I knew that's what I wanted to do — I wanted to be in that environment,” he laughed.
Gesmundo's ancestors didn't all come from circus backgrounds. His grandmother was originally an opera singer and ballerina. She met her future husband when he was traveling with his father's circus in Naples, Italy. At the time, she was performing the lead role in “Carmen” at the Teatro San Carlo. They fell in love, although her mother wasn't too happy about it. The mother hit her daughter's suitor over the head with a bag of rocks in an attempt to discourage him.
It didn't work. Gesmundo's grandmother ran away, literally, to join the circus with him.
Despite the family's impressive three-ring legacy, Gesmundo, 41, says, “My mother discouraged me to be in the circus. My father had died in an accident when I was 1-year-old in the circus (he fell and hit his head near a loading dock). So she was little overprotective of me. She wanted me to do whatever I want — except for the circus.”
He found ways around her edict, training with his cousins, for instance. When he turned 17, he moved away and began working as a stagehand and rigger in the theater before segueing into performing.
Gesmundo's first dance audition was for a show called “Hello, Hollywood, Hello” at Vegas' MGM, which at that time had the biggest stage in the world. The dancers auditioned onstage in groups, and Gesmundo did his try-out.
“As soon as I was done, I heard from the audience, 'Bravo, Ottavio!' to my horror and mortification,” he says.
It was his mother and grandmother, who had showed up to cheer him on.
“Of course, the producer was, 'Who is that? What's going on? This isn't a performance!' ”
Gesmundo went on to perform in a variety of shows, eventually working as the stunt coordinator for “Spider-man Live,” which debuted at the former Oakdale Theater in Wallingford in 2002. He played the Green Goblin in the show, too, and was struck by the pure enthusiasm of the young audience.
“Children were bouncing up and down in their chairs. For me, the best gratification was leaving the theater and watching the kids trying to imitate the gymnastic abilities, jumping and kicking,” he says. “I remember walking with my wife, and two kids were talking about the Goblin and, 'How did the Goblin do that?; 'Did you see that?' 'He was flying around and then he sent missiles and they blew up onstage!'
“I thought that's so cool that these little kids are probably going to remember that show when they grow up.”