Teatro ZinZanni Does Everything Right

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Tres and Cinco photo by Michael Doucett

¡Caliente!, the new show at Teatro ZinZanni, is completely over the top. You’ve got your acrobatics, your dancing, your jokes. There’s songs, sparklers, cabaret, an amazing five course dinner, and custom cocktails. The conceit for this season’s show is that the kitchen has been fired, but instead of accepting their pink slips, they stay for one last night, and put on the show of their dreams. Starring Christine Deaver and Robert Lopez (aka El Vez), the three and a half hours spent inside the spiegeltent is full of laughs and moments of wonder. Tickets vary in price from $106 to $141 (depending on where you sit) for the dinner show. It’s not cheap, but you definitely get what you pay for.

Let’s start with the food. The food is delicious, and the presentation is lovely, but it’s nothing too far outside the box. That makes perfect sense though, when you consider the scale of the production. On an average week they serve a third of a metric ton of soup. It’s going out to 300 guests in twenty five minutes. With that many people eating, it stands to reason that their aim is dead in the center of the average pallete. When you arrive your appetizer is waiting for you. It’s a dainty bit of polenta with olives to get you started on this Latin-themed show. Next is the soup. It’s a savory mushroom, each with a matching swirl of creme fraiche. This is followed by a salad of fresh greens with jimica, and then your choice of three entrees. I went with the steak, and I wasn’t disappointed, but I was a little envious of other people who went with the prawns. The desert is a raspberry confection with a sheet of white chocolate standing out like an exclamation point. In between courses the real performances take place, but there’s always something going on to catch your eye.

The food is lovely, but the real reason to go is for the show. Deaver and Lopez play Tres and Cinco, brother and sister, and they are the hosts. They riff with the crowd a lot, but there is also a largely scripted element. At a couple of points during the show they select people from the audience to get involved. At Teatro ZinZanni, literally everyone is a performer. The back of the house comes out to sing at one point, the servers sing and dance – it’s as close to living inside a musical as you’re likely to experience. Tres and Cinco provide a lot of the laughs, while other performers provide the wonder.

Vita Radinova photo by Michael Doucett
Les Petits Freres seem to defy gravity. This Parisian trio do feats that border on the supernatural. One of the standout moments was when one of the men performs on what looks to be a light pole. He climbs with an ease and grace as if underwater. The aerial show with Ling Rui is breathtaking, Ann Bernard’s percussive dance was mesmerizing, but my favorite performance was Vita Radionova’s jaw-dropping hula hoop routine. All of these performers are of the highest caliber. We’re talking Cirque du Soleil, we’re talking the creme de la creme. This is a well-oiled machine of a show, but it’s still human.

Another great moment for me was a wig malfunction. At one point Cinco’s wig came off, and he ran off stage to fix it. But he didn’t really fix it. It was hanging all wrong, and it made the whole scene all the more funny. He didn’t break, but you could tell it was on his mind. I stand by my love of little mistakes in shows. That’s the difference between live performances and film, the little goofs and the knowledge that everything could possible become a fiasco. Danger is fun, and so is Teatro ZinZanni.

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