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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Teatro Zinzanni - Dinner and Dreams

For a very special Valentine's gift, whether it's on the holiday or not, you could hardly do better than to take your main squeeze to Teatro Zinzanni. A savvy mixture of fine food, a circus atmosphere and intermingled acts that range from opera to spinning plates, Teatro Zinzanni makes for the perfect special occasion evening, and really gives you a big bang for your bucks.

The setting is a handsomely restored European style circular tent, originally built in 1910. The current Seattle cast (which changes periodically, as does its sister company in San Francisco) includes two commanding entertainers who play the brothers who host the proceedings. El Vez is a swivel-hipped, flashy-dresser modeled on the King of Rock 'n' Roll, with a brassy and powerful voice. His onstage brother, Chef Caesar, is played with abandon and satin smooth comic timing by Frank Ferrante. Ferrante (acclaimed for his impersonations of Groucho Marx) wrings laughs out of ad-libs that would be groaners in lesser hands, and is a master of manipulating audience members, from a spry old Texas grandmother to a poker-faced Army sergeant.

Teatro ZinzanniUkrainian artist Sergiy Krutikov is a dexterous comic juggler and accordionist, and has the running gag of continually upstaging "La Diva" soprano Juliana Rambaldi. Happily, Ms. Rambaldi is given a near closing aria spotlight to showoff her impressive pipes. The statuesque Manuela Horn does a killer dominatrix bit, delivers songs with the sultry rasp of a Lotte Lenya and can yodel like someone from the Grand Ole Opry. Sabine Reick is a delirious comic acrobat with a putty face reminiscent of Lucille Ball. The Steben Sisters, identical twins familiar from HBO's Carnivale series, are poetry in motion as they dangle above the audience in their act. This is one of many moments where the fear of an actor landing in your plate actually adds to the evenings fun.

The incredibly hard working trio known as Les Petits Freres (Gregory Marquet, Mickael Bajazet, and Domitil Ailot) can best be described as graceful and suave acrobatic clowns who also dance, and as Les Voila!, Soizick Hebert and Johnny Filion add comic spice to the dining as cut-up waiters. Finally, Rie Taki (Wakataki Kyo), a Japanese dance specialist, makes glowing cameo appearances as a sort of Asian cupid who makes sure that love is in the air throughout the evening.

Artistic directors Norman Langill, director Stuart Gordon, and writer Amanda Rogers, have woven together a masterful vaudeville-flavored show, with expert musical support from Musical director Norman Durkee and his jaunty band.

The show goes on throughout your five-course dining experience, which starts with antipasto, followed by soup, salad, main course and dessert. The salad and main course come in vegetarian versions as well, and my companion assured me they were as delectable as my carnivorous versions. As appetizing as the food is, however, you may find yourself so caught up in the antics of the entertainers that a smiling, wacky server may be ready to whisk away your plate before you've cleaned it. Whether or not you are old enough to remember vaudeville or the Ed Sullivan show, Teatro Zinzanni, should leave you rolling in the aisles, and with a belly full of good food to boot.

Teatro Zinzanni, produced bye One Reel, has an open ended run in it's downtown Seattle location at 6th Avenue between Battery and Bell. Performances are at 6:30 Thursdays-Saturdays, 5:30 Sundays. Tickets are $89 Thursday, Friday and Sunday, and $109 Saturdays. For reservations and information call (206) 802-0015 or online at ticketweb.com.


Photo: Dominic "Arizona" Bonuccelli



- David-Edward Hughes



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