During the 1800’s and well into the 20th century the carnival sideshow was a universal popular attraction. Today, not so much. Indeed there are television shows and motion pictures that are heavily influenced by the genre, but they present sideshow more as horror and not as human marvels as the traditional sideshow once did.
“Carnival Diablo”, the stage presentation, attempts to rectify that. The show is as much carnival sideshow as it is theatre. Set in 19th century Victorian times, the circus comes to town. Led by its charismatic showmaster, Nikolai Diablo, the ultimate sideshow delivers creative magic, freakish human feats and stunts that test the bounds of human endurance. With assistance from his two cohorts, the lovely Ophelia and the very strange Volos, it is wicked entertainment. Audience participation is encouraged, if you would dare.
The look and feel of “Carnival Diablo” is astounding. Great detail has gone into costumes, makeup and the authentic set pieces (the electric chair in particular), while the ambient music and crisp dialogue heighten the mood considerably. The show fluctuates magnificently between tense drama and light hearted fun. Nikolai delights in his storytelling as he takes us along for the scary ride. We learn the history of this entertainment form.
Scott McClelland is the creative force behind “Carnival Diablo”. As the ringleader Nikolai Diablo, he turns in a riveting performance. McClelland acts as producer and director, developed the concept, penned the script, built the set and most of the props and designed the costumes and special effects. He is also responsible for training his onstage colleagues in the art of sideshow.
McClelland comes by his profession honestly. His grandfather, Nicholas P. Lewchuk, was a legendary showman originally from Ukraine, where he toured Europe with circuses in his youth. He moved to Canada where he ran and operated Canada’s largest traveling sideshow from 1920 through 1968. Starting as a performance show with acts ranging from sword swallowing to an on stage seance, “Professor N.P. Lewchuck’s Travelling Shows” grew to include rides and live animals. Lewchuk, whose fascination with magic led to the birth of the sideshow in Canada, performed many mental acts himself, with his wife Anastasia acting as the show sword swallower.
Only eleven years old, Scott began his training under the watchful eye of his brilliant grandfather. Through the years he learned all of the tricks of the trade and upon his grandfather’s passing turned his efforts to reviving the traditional sideshow. “Carnival Diablo” is now in its 22nd season of touring, having gathered worldwide recognition as the best in its field. “Carnival Diablo” has appeared on numerous television specials, newspapers and magazines and on stages throughout North America.
“Carnival Diablo” comes to Sault Ste. Marie on Friday, Dec. 5th at the Kiwanis Community Theatre at White Pines. Showtime is 8pm. Tickets are available at the Station Mall Box Office,(705)945-7299 or online at www.kctc.ca. Senior and student discounts, with ID, are available. Presented by Borderline Productions, this show is recommended for audiences 13 years of age and older.