Big top romance: Branson show uses circus to tell love story

21 Sep

It’s an age-old story: Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy loses girl. In the end, love triumphs and boy gets girl back.
Only in this case, there’s a twist. It’s clown meets pretty ballerina, clown falls in love with pretty ballerina, clown loses pretty ballerina, and in the end … wait, why spoil the ending?
That’s how the plot unfolds six days a week onstage at the Yakov Smirnoff Theatre in Branson.
Yakov’s Moscow Circus, a new offering from Russia’s non-communist favorite son, tells the tale of Andrei, a sad circus clown who falls head-over-heels in love with the beautiful ballerina, Marina. The pair of star-struck lovers’ attempt at romance is cut short by the circus ringmaster, Olga, who happens to be Marina’s stern and protective older sister.
While the new production includes everything you would expect from a show centered around a circus romance, Smirnoff’s Moscow Circus show offers a redemptive message along with colorful clowns, aerialists, performing animals and a multi-course meal.
Family feature
“It has been tremendous fun,” Smirnoff said of his show. “The important part was that I knew we could have a circus show, but I didn’t think that it would be enough to keep our Branson audiences entertained.”
Smirnoff believed he needed more to hook and hold an audience’s attention in the competitive entertainment market. When Andrei Soumiatin, who produces the show and plays the love-lorn clown, approached him about mounting a circus-style production in Branson, Smirnoff had an idea.
“I said I would enjoy it if there was a love story,” he said. “I believe that this is what I’m about. It’s about patriotism and family and it’s about intrigue and a clever plot. If we can create something like that, I told him, then I’m interested. If you just want to do a circus show, I’m not the guy.”
The message of Moscow Circus, Smirnoff said, is simple and powerful: The love of power always pales in comparison to the power of love.
“In western society we are so much in love with power,” he said. “The power to have bigger homes; the power to have better positions and to have more money. I believe we are neglecting and abandoning the power of love, which is family, which is children and connecting with each other around the dinner table. All of the things that we have not paid attention to for a while.”
The characters in Moscow Circus are clear-cut. From the minute you meet Andrei the clown, Marina the ingŽnue and Olga, the seemingly sinister sister, you know who the heroes and villains are.
“All of those people are very clearly defined,” Smirnoff said.
When Smirnoff was writing the show, which he narrates from giant video screens in the theater, he kept his single message in mind.
But, he didn’t want to get too serious, he said. He wanted a show that families would like and children would love. At one point in the production, Andrei tosses oversized beachballs into the audience and madness ensues.
“It’s a very playful, fun-filled show, “ Smirnoff said. “I’m a child at heart, so I wanted to design and continue to add elements to the show that are something I would want to do when I go to a show. I want to have fun and learn something in a fun filled way.”
Dinner and a show
This season Smirnoff has added a special element to get families talking again: Dinner.
“We serve food and it’s wonderful,” Soumiatin said. “We start with soup and a dinner roll and famous Russian potatoes and meatballs. It’s a traditional Russian dish made with beef from Kansas cows and real Idaho potatoes. We have babka (for dessert), which is Russian peach cobbler.”
Soumiatin said the meal at Moscow Circus offers a special experience.
“You eat during the show and you are not distracted from the show by the meal. It’s in the middle of the show. It’s a dinner experience and you will be surprised. Just a little hint: The food arrives at your seat in glow in the dark boxes. It’s a Yak-in -the Box.”
The meal, Smirnoff said is key to the success of his production.
“This year we added dinner because I believe that a missing link is for families to have the opportunity to eat together, enjoy something and have the opportunity to talk about it after,” Smirnoff said. “That’s very important.”

Local discount
Through the end of August, Jasper and Newton County residents can take advantage of a Moscow Circus special offer. Go to www.moscowcircus.yakov.com or call 800-728-4546 for tickets and special offers.

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