Internationally acclaimed, the theatre piece is unlike anything seen on a New York stage at the moment: Massive balloons scud into the air, beleaguered clowns trudge through Sisyphean rituals, a giant gauzy "spider web" is pulled from the stage and entraps the entire audience and, for the finale, uncounted pounds of "snow" blow into the house in a blinding blizzard effect, filling the aisle with ankle-deep white. Theatregoers inevitably find leftover snow in their clothes hampers, collars, cuffs and purses long after the experience.
The theatrical event has been presented in over 80 cities around the world and was honored with a 2005 Drama Desk Award.
Slava's Snowshow is billed as "a magical theatrical experience that melds the unbridled hilarity — and the unexpected poignancy — of the art of clowning with stunning spectacle and awe-inspiring visual images and fantasy, culminating in a blinding, heart-stopping snowstorm that engulfs the entire audience."
Creator-clown Slava Polunin "was born in a very small town in Russia, far from all the big cities," according to production notes about the show's history. "All of his childhood was spent in forests, fields, and by a river. He lived in the world of fantasies, and liked to invent new things and make up stories. He would build four-story tree houses and snow towns, and organize funny parties for his friends. Through TV and cinema he fell in love with the great clowns and mimes. To be a clown became his biggest dream. He was so passionate about this that he could not wait until he graduated. At the age of 17, he went to Leningrad with the intention of studying engineering. Instead, he joined a mime studio and so began his long-term quest to reclaim and re-establish the art and craft of the true clown. Influenced by great artists such as Chaplin, Marcel Marceau, Engibarov, and building on his innate talents, Slava and his theatre company, founded in 1979, took clowning out of the circus onto the streets, and from there into the major theatres of the world.
"Slava's reputation grew rapidly and people travelled far to learn his unique mix of alternative clowning and visual theatre. Former students of Slava have now progressed to form their own companies and many have been cast in productions of the Cirque du Soleil, or enjoyed successful independent careers. "Slava first took his theatre to England in 1988. His three performances at the Hackney Empire were enough to establish his name overnight. Five years later he gathered together the highlights of his repertoire and the resulting show, Snowshow (formerly called Yellow), was hailed as a triumph, winning him a Time Out Award. Following this London success, he toured North America with Cirque du Soleil's production of Alegría, which continues to feature excerpts from Snowshow. He won the Olivier Award for "Best Entertainment" during a sold-out run at the Old Vic, London in 1997. Snowshow is now touring the world and has been performed in over 25 countries, to more than one million spectators."
Union Square Theatre is at 100 E. 17th Street. Performances play Mondays at 8 PM (no performances on Tuesdays); Wednesdays through Fridays at 8 PM; Saturdays at 4 PM and 8 PM; and Sundays at 2 PM and 5:30 PM. Ticket prices are $59.90 to $64.90.
For tickets, call Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100, or the Union Square Theatre box-office at (212) 505-0700, or visit www.ticketmaster.com.
For more information, visit www.snowshowusa.com.