Regional Reviews: San Francisco
A More European Teatro ZinZanni with Liliane Montevecchi
Living Parisian legend Liliane Montevecchi has returned as Madame ZinZanni the celebrated hostess of San Francisco's luxurious Love, Chaos and Dinner show in the magnificent Parisian spiegeltent on the Embarcadero. The city's premiere attraction is celebrating its 5th year and the current show is better than ever. This is probably the best of the productions that I have seen during the past three years. There is a distinctive European flavor about this presentation. It boasts an international cast of acrobatics, trapeze artists, jugglers, and the great comic "chef," Cookie.
Liliane Montevecchi is a seemingly ageless singer and dancer. The star on the original productions of Nine, Grand Hotel and Plume de ma Tante holds the audience in the palm of her hand with her "joie de vivre" style of songs. The artist appears at the beginning of the program to great her "guests," and she is still sexy - dressed in a red velvet grown with striking red feathers around the shoulders and a magnificent red feather headdress. She looks like a Parisian showgirl singing the song she introduced in Nine called "Folies Bergères". The artist is surrounded by can-can girls who could have come from the Moulin Rouge, and then goes into the lively French song "Fromage."
Montevecchi returns later in a beautiful white costume to sing the dazzling Jacques Brel song, "Merry Go Round" on a large revolving drum with various members of the cast playing carousel figures. Near the end of the production she returns in black coat and black hat singing "Just a Gigolo" followed by "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and finishing with Jerry Herman's plaintiff "Dear World." Dame Montevecchi, who was knighted by the Knights of Malta, is very charismatic in all of these songs. She also walks among the tables to talk to the patrons. (Liliane came to our table and we told her we had seen her in the original productions, and she said she was happy that someone who had seen her perform before was in the audience).
Sharing the spotlight is Kevin Kent as Cookie, the mercurial Chef de Cuisine who introduces each part of the four course meal with comic patter. He also gets one poor soul up there in the spotlight to help with his act. Cookie first comes out like a born again Christian evangelist on the order of Elmer Gantry sporting an Ozark accent. (On the night we were there he picked my mate Eddy to help "bless the soup". Eddy was very professional and even did a little side stepping dance from his early days as a tap dancer.) Kevin really comes into his own when he appears before the main course (coq au vin or Moroccan lamb), dressed in pink like Madame Pompadour, carrying his famous lace fan. He picks the "butchest" member of the audience since that poor man will end up in drag.
ZinZanni's cast is truly international, with Russian Elena Borodina who does amazing hand balancing tricks. She is a moving sculpture as her body is transformed by flowing transparent tissue. Ukrainian musician and juggler Sergey Krutikov shows his remarkable juggling skills with hats, and has a dynamic personality playing an accordion. He was trained at the famed Moscow circus.
Sabine Rieck from Berlin astounds the audience with her acrobatics on a thin piece of fabric. The Steben Twins from Canada, who played the joined at the hip twins on HBO's Carnivale, are amazing trapeze artists who do an incredible feet to feet act on the swinging trapeze high above the audience in the European tent. Heather Clemens, San Francisco's own contralto again showed off her beautiful pipes. The Les Castors have also returned to play various roles and then perform their remarkable feat of agility known as Risley, or body juggling, which they combine with incredible foot juggling feats such as hoisting, spinning and passing kegs, trucks and other innocuous objects such as miniature bed from feet to feet of the three men.
Liliane Montevecchi and Kevin Kent will be headliners the production through May 29th at the spiegeltent on Embarcadero at Pier 29 San Francisco. Tickets are available at the site;s Box Office at Pier 29 on weekdays from 10 am - 6 pm and weekends from noon - 6 pm or by phone at 415-438-2668. New Prices now in effect are $110 on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, and $135 on Friday and Saturday. For groups call 415-438-2669 or visit www.zinzanni.org.