Teatro ZinZanni serves up dazzling vocals, delightful comedy in wholly revamped show

If you’re looking for a fun, campy, beautiful, romantic adventure of a night, Teatro ZinZanni has you covered.

SHARE Teatro ZinZanni serves up dazzling vocals, delightful comedy in wholly revamped show
Phenix (Cunio, left) and Madame Z (Bethany Thomas) deliver powerhouse vocals in the latest version of Teatro ZinZanni, playing inside the Spiegeltent ZaZou.

Phenix (Cunio, left) and Madame Z (Bethany Thomas) deliver powerhouse vocals in the latest version of Teatro ZinZanni, playing inside the Spiegeltent ZaZou.

Sandy Morris

Some of the funniest bits in “Teatro ZinZanni: Wishes & Dreams,” the rebooted production of the long-runningcabaret circus, take place before the show proper starts, as a host of high-energy clowns roam the audience nestled in the intimate Spiegeltent Zazou on the 14th floor of the Loop’s Cambria Hotel.

It wouldn’t do to give the gag away,so just know it involves a leaf-blower and a roll of toilet paper and is both 100-percent hilarious and 100-percent stupid. It is also surreal, because it feels like only yesterday people were miserably hoarding toilet paper.

‘Teatro ZinZanni: Wishes & Dreams’

Teatro ZinZanni review

When: Through Aug. 14

Where: Spiegeltent ZaZou, Cambria Hotel, 14th Floor, 32 W. Randolph

Tickets: $109-$264 (dinner and show); $69 show only

Run-time: 2-and-one-half hours, including one 15-minute intermission

Info: ZinZanni.com/Chicago








That leaf-blower moment is one of joyful zaniness, the emotional combo that captures the aesthetic of the (mostly) re-cast and re-configured Teatro ZinZanni, an up-close celebration of world-class jugglers, acrobats, contortionists, clowns and aerial artists from across the globe.

As before, the audience dines on a three-course menu from Goddess and Grocer’s Debbie Sharpe. No less than 10 disco balls gently bobble above the cocktail tables surrounding three sides of the stage. The vibe is part posh cabaret and part old-school burlesque hall.

The new plot, which is wholly unnecessary, has us in a “diner” where headwaiter Doily (Kevin Kent) and chef Madame Z (Bethany Thomas) are welcoming home Doily’s son Phenix (Cunio, the sole returning cast member from the production’s previous incarnation). Not all Doily’s comic interludes work in the new production, directed by Dreya Weber and Tobias Larrson, with choreography by Weber.Nothing about the luxe venue says “diner,” and the prattling dialogue about wishes and dreams is cliched.

Still, if you’re looking for a fun, campy, beautiful, romantic adventure of a night, Teatro ZinZanni has you covered.

Moreover, the show offers an acoustically glorious venue to hear Cunio and Thomas, both of whom are in magnificent voice. Backed by an air-tight live band that delivers on everything from the earthiest blues to the most celestial descant, the cast sounds as good as it looks.

Thomas’ vocals have a sultry rasp and belting roar powerful enough to up the room’s temperature. Cunio (who hands-down has the evening’s best looks, even among the runway’s worth of lavish vaudeville-meets-Carnivale creations created by costumer designer Debra M. Bauer) belts out a growling screamer of a rock number while hanging upside down and spinning like streamer high above the audience. It’s spectacular.

Doily (the aforementioned Kent) oversees the comedy. The character’s humor is as broad as barn and subtle as a linebacker. But she’s also got a gift for disarming audience participants, goading them to let her do ridiculous things like nestle their bald heads under her shirt so she can strut the stage sporting massive cleavage.

Teatro ZinZanni aerialists Sylvia Friedman & Samuel Sion of Duo Rose-Photo by  Sandy Morris

Teatro ZinZanni aerialists Duo Rose — Sylvia Friedman and Samuel Sion — perform a jawdropping pas de deux.

Sandy Morris

In a singularly ridiculous and impressive exercise in crowd control, Doily had every couple in the joint on its feet waltzing opening night. The jokes get repetitive, but a little mediocre improv is a small price to pay for the wonders the ZinZanni ensemble brings to the stage. And while Kent’s the head clown, the rest of the ensemble provides enough pie-throwing, plate-spinning manic energy to propel the production forward.

The artists cover a gamut of circus arts: Michael Evolution’s finesse with a basketball (or four) evokes the effortless blend of showmanship and athleticism of the great Harlem Globetrotters. Juggler Noel Aguilar uses both arms and legs to launch a battery of shiny bowling pins skyward, the velocity of their collective orbit creating a flashing silver circle around him.

The aerial acts are gorgeous, the performers working on a combination of straps, ropes, swinging trapezes and whirling hoops. In a display of jaw-dropping strength, Duo Rose (Sylvia Friedman and Samuel Sion) seem to float through their mid-air pas-de-deux. Marjorie Nantel shows off two completely different moods of contortionism. The first is earthbound and comic, Nantel unpacking her seemingly dislocated limbs from a champagne crate. The second is pure drama as she swoops and soars like a raven overhead.Equally stunning is rhythmic gymnast Elena Gatilova, who creates a gravity-defying ballet and whirls like a Dervish within a flashing silver hoop.

Teatro ZinZanni is a beautiful show. It would be better as a straight-up revue, and without the strained attempt at plot. But that’s easy enough to forget under the spectacular spell the ensemble casts.

NOTE: Theatergoers are asked to show proof of COVID vaccination and are required to wear masks throughout the venue, except when dining.

Bethany Thomas (left) and Marjorie Nantel are among the cast of the newly revamped Teatro ZinZanni.. -Photo Credit_ Sandy Morris

Bethany Thomas (left) and Marjorie Nantel are among the cast of the newly revamped Teatro ZinZanni.

Sandy Morris

The Latest
Masks would be urged for all residents in indoor public spaces in counties that rise to the high risk level. One of Cook County’s top doctors says she doesn’t expect the county to hit that level anytime soon. But Chicago’s Dr. Allison Arwady has said it “could happen potentially even in the next few weeks.”
Creating an ‘outdoor entertainment venue liquor license’ is a big step toward holding concerts this summer at the former Morton Salt facility, 1357 N. Elston Ave. But two alderpersons are a little salty about the prospect.
Forty-six states, including Illinois, reported declines in marriage rates in 2020, according to the CDC. Only Montana, Texas, Alabama and Utah saw increases.
In corresponding moves, the Cubs optioned right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. to Triple-A on and transferred outfielder Michael Hermosillo from the 10-day IL (left quad strain) to the IL with no injury designation,
The enrollment reached 100% of freshmen at four Chicago Public Schools during the last two years, according to the report from the CPS inspector general.