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.
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.
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
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.
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.