Snowed In is about four artists who are writing a holiday musical while on a retreat. In the morning, they have to drive back to Seattle and present their finished show. However, while they are brainstorming, they realize that they snowed in. Under pressure, they create musical numbers that are comical, relatable, and are about the holiday spirit. Snowed In is created by Corinne Park-Buffellen and Mathew Wright. It is directed by Kelly Kitchens.
The group performs traditional holiday songs like “Deck the Halls” and “In the Bleak Midwinter,” which have been rearranged and rewritten as a refreshing twist. In addition, there are original songs like “Bonita, the Sexiest Elf,” which the group tries to convince Christian is a classic holiday song. Gaslighting a friend like this is a prank that we’ve all participated in or been a victim of. Another relatable musical number is “Happy Being Hosted,” which is sung by Sarah Russell while wearing a spectacular sparkling dress. With a spotlight on her, she descends the staircase and sits on the piano while singing about how she’s a great party-goer who brings chips and dip from Trader Joe’s (a universal experience) and how she tells jokes that delights the straights and the gays.
Snowed In acknowledges its meta-ness in ways that theater-lovers will recognize and laugh at. In “Tap Number,” Nik Hagen, the dancer extraordinaire of the group, tap dances while doing jazz hands. He says, “the key is distracting them with hands” (them being us, the audience) and it’s true! Adding hand motions with tap-dancing does make it seem more onbeat.
A particularly meta moment is when Rachel Guyer-Mafune writes a scene using ChatGPT, which results in funny robotic lines like getting “box of present because Christmas” and an out of pocket line for Christian that is just, “I love balls.” As Rachel directs the scene, it transforms into something even more comical as Christian and Nik exaggerate their acting in ways that make fun of techniques we’ve all seen played out, like when Rachel shouts out “body language!” and Christian throws himself dramatically onto the couch. Full of emotion, Nik tells Christian that he got him a baseball that is meaningful to him. It’s a scene that is both serious, funny, and you have to admit, a little impressive for its reimagination of a baseball.
As for meta songwriting, in “The Perfect Christmas Song,” Nik and Christian talk about how to write the perfect christmas song, which Nik says involves singing about your favorite things about Christmas. When he tries to demonstrate, he fails to come up with a last item for the first verse. Luckily, the beat is filled with the piano, which is being played by Riley Brule. When it’s Christian’s turn to write the next verse, he takes after Nik and leaves the last beat empty.
A hilarious and creative scene is when Rachel puppeteers Olive, one of Santa’s reindeer who has been forgotten due to a misunderstanding. In the song, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” Olive is “all of” the other reindeer. While taking drags from her cigarette, Olive clears up all the accusations as to why she “never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games” and “used to laugh and call him names.” Compared to the rest of Santa’s family-friendly reindeer, Olive is a grumpy old reindeer whose disgruntled demeanor is uniquely endearing and entertaining.
As the group starts to get serious and hunker down to combine the material they have to create their play, Sarah offers, “What if this is the play?” and as a finale they sing “Holiday Time” which is also the first musical number in Snowed In. “Holiday Time” is about how during the holidays, you’re rushed to do everything like baking treats, buying gifts and decorating the house. As the group sings “You did it on holiday time,” they are also thanking the audience for coming to see the play on holiday time. It’s a meaningful and meta moment, and it involves a fun callback to a glitter cannon.
Snowed In takes a fun approach to the play within the play by making it about the audience. After all, meta things can only be enjoyed when the viewer understands its references. All in all, it’s got a variety of things. It’s got a triple pirouette, singing, tap dancing, puppetry, gay jokes and you’re bound to enjoy something, if not everything.
Snowed In, ArtsWest. 4711 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116. November 30-December 23, 2023