Slava’s SnowShow (Show One Productions at The Elgin Theatre)

There’s something really special about a production that can transcend age, language, and cultural barriers, uniting audiences around the world and even diverse audiences in a single location with a memorable theatrical experience understood completely by everyone in the room. Slava’s SnowShow is absolutely that. A world renowned clown performance played out in silly and poignant vignettes full of classic and inventive physicality, fantastic music, and stunning visual effects, it’s an evening of small wonders for absolutely everyone. A lack of narrative throughline and a few of the slower scenes invite a little mind wandering but the joyful charm of the performers, all-time-great execution of audience participation, and a truly thrilling finale are what will stay with you as you leave the theatre. A unique experience for all ages and a quintessential performance of theatrical clowning.


The Nutcracker (Toronto International Ballet Theatre at Meridian Hall)

Similarly, one of the great joys of this production at the Sony Centre is its accessibility regardless of demographic. Playing for only two performances on a single day but at the biggest venue in town, Toronto International Ballet Theatre’s classic take on The Nutcracker is a delightful alternative to the National Ballet’s somewhat dreary version. The greatest strength of Artistic Director Tatiana Stepanova’s interpretation is its narrative clarity. Giving the Sugar Plum Fairy’s material to a grownup Clara, this version tells a fairly straightforward story (or as straightforward as The Nutcracker can be) of a girl’s romantic fantasy as she gets swept up in a dream after being gifted a dashing doll. The company overall isn’t as technically strong as the National Ballet and the production is much less luxurious with a simple backdrop set and tinny recorded music but at the opening performance the ensemble was tighter and better prepared than their fancy competitors and guest artist Brennan Clost (Drosselmeyer) and Riho Ogata Dantow (Waltz of the Flowers) delivered standout performances. The second act pacing is slow with far too many applause breaks after very short dance sequences and Stepanova’s choreography isn’t particularly memorable but her Nutcracker is very enjoyable and a crucial alternative to the National.