SLAVA’S SNOWSHOW: Broadway Review by Hanna Singer

(photo credit: Veronique Vial)

Your perception of clowns and mimes will change after seeing this show!

I had the opportunity to take my daughter to the opening night of  SLAVA’S SNOWSHOW on November 13th at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on Broadway. All I knew about it, was that it had clowns and mimes. I have to admit, I had not been the biggest fan of either mimes or clowns until now. But I thought, well, perhaps my daughter may like it, and an opening night event should be fun.

During most of the show I sat in awe. I often smiled hugely, and was thrilled by the uniqueness of it all. It was often unbelievably clever and funny and a few times moving, when I teared up.

I tried to figure out the story. Actually there were many short stories. It seemed to me that it was a combination of a dreamlike state and somehow symbolic of moments in life itself. I think it can be looked at on many levels, and all of them enjoyable.

When we first entered, after watching some possible celebrity photos being taken outside, we got into our seats. We noticed all over the floor there were small pieces of paper strewn, perhaps signifying snow. The sound of a train permeated the theatre. Were we at a train station? All part of Slava’s experience.

When the curtains opened, smoke filled the stage, and out came a clown. I noticed this clown was kind of cool looking. And when other clowns appeared, I was greatly impressed by the costuming. There were basically two looks. Some clowns were wearing a big yellow baggy outfit that came in handy for various scenes. The other group of clowns looked almost like homeless clowns with torn clothes and a hat with wide brims, winglike, which also came in handy later on.

One scene changed into another short story/scene. There was music, some I recognized and hadn’t heard in years that were classic and timeless, some jazzy and some mood music. Mind you, there were no words being spoken by the mime/clowns. Although there was a funny scene where the clowns mimicked the words to a song playing. Their timing was impeccable.

I could see these were ultimate professionals in their field where I am sure there are not that many. Their ages seemed to run the gamut. There was even a little child clown towards the end.

The humor was such that I haven’t seen much in modern times. A lot of physical comedy. I was reminded of Laurel and Hardy, and some physicality of Steve Martin in some of his movies. It was so well done I was in heaven. I love this type of humor. To succeed, the timing must be everything. And it was, It was flawless. Sometimes they would gaze into the audience where we would all connect as if we were in on the same joke.

The colors, the lights, the costumes and props and how they were used and often magic-like. It enriched almost all of my senses.

There was a short intermission, and then more magical moments with the brilliant players. I could not stop grinning and often looked at my daughter who was laughing so hard at the physical comedy.

We had no idea what was to come, a brilliant finale that was interactive. We were sitting in the middle, sort of in the center of the audience participation.

Some mimes came into the audience and used a few audience members to tease them and one to dump some shredded paper (snow) on their head. They interacted in one scene with us, making hand motions up and down, we knew to raise our voices high and low saying “ahhh” and ‘ooooh” and “awwww” and we knew when to use which sounds, they conveyed it to us with just their hand movements and gestures and looks.

Sometimes they joked with us and we were all part of the act. They climbed from front to the back on the backs of our chairs, some were holding umbrellas. That was a clue. We knew to watch for some rain. So some of us got a little wet when they poured water on the umbrellas and spun them. Those silly clowns. It was funny.

During one storyline there was a spiders web that got bigger and bigger and ended up over all our heads in the audience as we pushed it to the back of the theatre. At one point it snowed small white papers when the wind that was onstage started blowing snow on us. We were caught in a real snowstorm and it was windy!

Somehow at some point, there was smoke on the stage again, from a smoke machine and huge, I mean huge balloons appeared. Slowly the audience realized we would be pushing and throwing these huge balloons around the audience. It took perhaps five people to throw one. Then slowly there were small balloons, but they were still big, My daughter had a blast catching them and throwing them to other kids she saw.

For the next, maybe 15-20 minutes, not sure how long, we were all standing and having fun with balloons. I was transformed into a child again. I didn’t want it to end. I looked at the stage and Slava, the main clown with his white beard and wild white hair, was sitting and observing us all and our enjoyment. The tables had been turned. They were now the audience, and we, the players.

One of the great things about this finale was that there was never an abrupt end. It just slowly died down. After we had all had as much fun with it as we wanted, slowly one huge balloon, then two, then three , then four arrived back on stage where they kept them. The smaller ones were still traveling around as people headed home after huge applause.  We got to meet a clown and take pictures with him and thank him for a wonderful show. He told us “How gracious of you.” I thought, what a lovely, seldom used word. I remembered that this show is from Russia, and English is mostly their second language.

The cast features Slava Polunin, Francesco Bifano, Spencer Chandler, Georgiy Deliyev, Alexandre Frish, Vanya Polunin, Robert Saralp, Nikolai Terentiev, Elena Ushakova, Aelita West, Bradford West and Artem Zhimo.

Slava Polunin created and staged this show originally in the early 90s and has evolved. It has won numerous awards around the world. Slava is somewhat of an icon in Russia. SLAVA’S SNOWSHOW, which runs 1 hour, 40 minutes, has been performed thousands of times to millions of people. Slava, himself, also performs as the lead clown.

SLAVA’S SNOWSHOW is playing through January 5th.




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