Dreaming of a Yiddish Christmas, with Sugarplums and a Klezmer Soundtrack

I went to see four Christmas and Chanukah shows recently, and I trust I won’t be revealing any bias—kayn aynhoreh—in anything I say about them.

Take Slava’s Snowshow, now at the Helen Hayes Theater on Broadway. The masterly Russian clown’s production brought out the Grinch in me in this crucial respect: For the remainder of its limited run, the tickets are an extortionate $111.50 with the cheapest seats going for $69.50.

There are no reduced prices for children.

Furthermore, Snowshow is only just over an hour long: 90 minutes, including the interval.

Give us a break!

It’s a children’s show. With clowns. It’s a show for the whole family. When is Broadway going to wake up to the biggest economic depression since World War II and bring its ticket prices down so folks can afford to go to the theater?

Apart from that, have a happy Christmas!

I enjoyed Slava’s Snowshow, but I didn’t find—as The Times did—that it “banishes the cares of a complicated world.” I found it increased them. It seems to me that, in spite of all Slava’s red-nosed mischief and clownishness, his Russian soul is essentially one of yearning, isolation and stress.

A brilliant mime, Slava has created a unique, painterly dreamscape onstage, and within its strange enchantment, anything can happen. Kids howl with delighted laughter at mayhem: the clowns, say, who climb all over the audience like extraterrestrials to steal someone’s purse or spray us with water. Or the giant balloons that roll out into the auditorium like playful planets. How simple it can be to please a child!

But what’s this? Slava finds a harmless rope; it puzzles him; the rope becomes a noose round his neck. He sails away to freedom on a bed, only to be sunk by an ocean liner. He staggers back onstage, but he’s riddled with arrows (Cupid’s?). A cobweb entangles him; then a monstrous spider appears and its cobweb unfolds spookily over the auditorium. Then poor Slava finally disappears into nothingness when a blizzard of snow blows ferociously from the stage and—very impressively—blankets the entire audience.

Snowshow is saying, If you’re going to do snow, do it. It’s like being briefly blinded by confetti.


IRVING BERLIN’S White Christmas at the Marquis Theatre also ends with a snowfall on the audience. But compared to Slava’s blitzkrieg, it’s a light, synthetic spritz, as anemic, I’m afraid, as the show itself.

I wouldn’t go quite as far as one of my heartless colleagues, who said that watching Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is like trying to get warm in front of the Yule Log on TV. As one of several Berlin’s standards in the show goes, “Count your blessings instead of sheep.”

Dreaming of a Yiddish Christmas, with Sugarplums and a Klezmer Soundtrack