Slava’s Snowshow Broadway Review: Clowning, Wordless and Wet

In the 26 years since the Russian clown Slava Polunin began touring, “Slava’s Snowshow” has been performed “thousands of times to millions of people in hundreds of cities,” according to the playbill. It doesn’t mention how much confetti, water and fusillades of giant beach balls have been dumped on, squirted, and shot at audiences. I’d say tons just in the performance I saw at Broadway’s Stephen Sondheim Theater, where the silly, wordless, plotless, pointless and popular 90- minute show (plus intermission) is running through January 5.
Much of the show is a series of moments too sketchy to be called scenes and too scenic to be called sketches, performed by Slava himself (or an alternate), dressed in his trademark yellow clown suit, and a rotating cast of seven supporting clowns each dressed identically in long green overcoat, red nose and a hat that looks like the outstretched wings of a very dirty grey seagull. In one, for example, Slava and a sidekick stand on a makeshift sailboat in a cartoon sea while a third clown wearing shark fins swims through the stage smoke, then stands up and takes a few bows; that’s it. In another, Slava comes out shot through with arrows, walks out on into the audience, then comes back on stage and dies. Slava’s small repertory of clown movements – he appears to shrink in his suit, he appears to move rapidly in place – received raucous applause.
Audience members in danger of drifting away will be forced into attention once the clowns fan out into the auditorium to harass us, by walking atop the armrests, stealing somebody’s handbag, spritzing us with water by flicking an umbrella fitted with an upside bottle of water on the tip.
The clowns limit their attacks to theatergoers in the front of the orchestra, which is just one of the advantages of a seat in the mezzanine. Another is that tickets there are as little as $49 (they go up to as much as $249 for premium orchestra seats.) There’s also a potential advantage in having a better perspective on the beautiful pictures created with the blizzards of white paper confetti simulating snow and the giant cottony cobweb spread out over the people in the orchestra, who are too up-close to see it in full view, and too busy being pummeled.

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Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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