To step into the shiny blue building, spangled with gold stars in Lower Queen Anne is to step into another world. The fully realized, immersive theatrical theme of Teatro ZinZanni begins with the lobby and shop at the entrance and only intensifies as you are escorted in by one of the lavishly dressed host and hostesses to dining tables under sensual and warm lighting. Before you know it, you are smack dab in the middle of an exotic march of impressive acts of acrobatics, singing, magic and comedy. The immersion doesn’t end until you walk back out the doors.
Since it opened in 1998, ZinZanni has been a whimsical and more visibly extravagant neighbor to the illustrious institutions across Mercer St, including Pacific Northwest Ballet and McCaw Hall, home of Seattle Opera. ZinZanni’s spectacle has been a steady draw for fans inside and outside the city, and it has been a steady home for many talented singers and performers based in the Pacific Northwest.
The dining area and stage are housed in a 103-year old Belgian Spiegeltent (‘mirror tent’ in translation), one of only eight in the world. The glass and canvas structure is a treasure of its own, which makes it a popular venue for events other than ZinZanni’s regular dinner theatre, including the recent Fashion Riot and a cabaret night with stage legend Joey Arias. If you haven’t made it to one of the dinner, however, I must recommend that it is about time to make your way in, especially for the latest show that ZinZanni has arranged: Hail, Caesar! Forbidden Oasis.
Each of the ten-member cast is a massive talent. Miss Dreya Weber performs as Cleo in Hail Caesar! arising from the underworld to look for her love, Caesar himself. Weber is an acclaimed actress, musician, aerialist and choreographer with a dynamic presence absolutely made for the stage. Frank Ferrante plays a chief also named Caesar, and in the ensuing confusion—with a healthy dash of magical Love Spice—Cleo ends up falling for the wrong Caesar and getting whisked away. Ferrante’s expertise in improvisation is profound and always entertaining. He has been lauded by the Chicago Tribune as “masterful” in his act, and it surely shows as he rallies innocent audience members into the fanciful world of the ZinZanni stage.
Andrea Conway Doba plays high-pitched, street-smart and sassy Mitzi, with her off-and-on stage partner Wayne Doba, who plays Dick. The two have a stupendous amount of engaged control as they tap through scenes with old time swing and gallivant around the crowd with a humorous touch. Another dynamic pair in the cast is Duo Madrona (Ben Wendel and Rachel Nahmer), two young, agile and skilled partners who awe the crowd with a dazzling, gripping aerial performance as the Love Spice is introduced.
The Love Spice is practically a character of its own and was a hit throughout the night, passed out generously by the sensuous Vita Radionova. The entire show is mixed up in the crazy workings of Love, and each performer balances the gravity of that most profound state with levity and clever innuendo.
To sparkle and promote the other performers, there is the lighthearted and handsome threesome Les Petits Freres, a group who found each other in the Annie Fratelli Circus School in Paris. Domitil Aillot, Gregory Marquet and Mickael Bajazet are the essence of delight with their timing, timeless and tireless charm, and gravity-defying feats that put smiles on all the faces in the crowd.
It is wonderful to see each of these acts in their own right, but to see them all gathered and collaborating in one 3-hour extravaganza is not to be missed. Teatro ZinZanni, with its old time romantic allure, its comedic and sweet storytelling, and inspired performances is a jewel in Seattle. Hail Caesar! gives audiences the chance to experience a world-class, well-crafted production that puts one in awe of what determination, talent and magic can bring forth through a physical human body—and this trip to the warm desert lands may just melt a few hearts during the cold, long Seattle winter, too.
Hail Caesar! Forbidden Oasis is running through January 26th
Photography by Alan Alabastro