Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

Join the Circus with Cirque du Soleil's Kooza and
Teatro ZinZanni's Maestro's Menagerie

Also guest reviewer Myriam Gordon's review of Follies in Concert and David's review of Candide

During this ridiculously spring, and hopefully sunnier Seattle summer, you can easily brighten up and, as they sang in the musical Barnum "Join the circus like you wanted to when you were a kid!" by attending either Kooza, the amazing new Cirque du Soleil extravaganza set up in Redmond's Marymoor Park, or Maestro's Menagerie, the latest lavish effort at Teatro ZinZanni's spiegeltent in lower Queen Anne.

Of the two, Kooza is certainly the more family friendly (though sophisticated kids used to attending theatre would also embrace Maestro's Menagerie). But Kooza can really bring out the child in all of us, as it weaves a spell of enchantment that I frankly have never been as enveloped in attending previous Cirque de Soleil shows, spectacular though they may be. Kooza unquestionably sets a new high for Cirque de Soleil.

The set up of the show is the Innocent, a young kite-flying boy being transported by a Trickster to a magical realm where a buffoon of a clown king and his cronies introduce the lad and involve him in some spectacular and yes, breathtaking acts. From a splendid trio of female contortionists, to a romp with a bunch of skeletal dancers, to a fellow who balances upon a progressively higher stack of chairs, the wonderment keeps coming. The coup de theatre for me, and quite outside what I have ever experienced at any prior Cirque show, are two gifted fellows who cavort inside and out of the "Wheel of Death," two rotating spheres (think double-ferris wheel). I am certain my mouth was open in amazement the whole time they were on. There is a splendid live band and singers backing up the acts and two and a half hours go by in a blink. Though the ticket price is high, Kooza qualifies as don't miss entertainment, where even the varied assortment of yummy edibles and beverages sold at the concessions is of a high caliber. The run is a limited engagement through July 11, 2010. For tickets, travel directions and other information go to

Francine Reed
Teatro Zinzanni has been a staple of Seattle entertainment with sit down runs first in Queen Anne, then downtown and now back in Queen Anne for sometime, and the shows change 3 to 4 times a year. In Maestro's Menagerie, Madame Zinzanni's club is visited by an 18th century circus troupe. Lead by a formidable Maestro the band of strong men, equilibrists, and trapeze artists have come to collect an unusual and very self possessed lady puppet. The acts, interspersed with a marvelous multi-course meat, the spectacle and low comedy never let up supported by Musical Director Norman Durkee and his band.

ZinZanni veteran Ukrainian illusionist Voronin creates an air of mystery and macabre menace as the Maestro, and veteran song-stylist Francine Reed gives a down-home, soulful spin to her interpretation of the Teatro's hostess with the mostess, Madame Zinzanni. Reed is a long-time co-star of Lyle Lovett, and she knows how to warm your heart with a song like few others. The Collins Brothers (brothers in title only) are exemplary comic trapeze artists, Elena Borodina is an ethereal hand-balancer, the Ssens Duo make a stunning and sensual ZinZanni debut with their own trapeze artistry, and Sergiy Krutikov is an amazing juggler. Peter Pitofsky (an American vet of the Greatest Show on Earth) is a baggy pants throwback who is equal parts Curly Howard and Red Skelton, Brandon Rabe handles magic tricks with great ease, and shimmering soprano Juliana Rambaldi encores with vocal finesse as the operatic diva.

A night (or Sunday brunch) at Maestro's Menagerie will satisfy the most discerning theatergoer and elicit epicurean ecstasy. Teatro Zinzanni is located at 222 Mercer Street in the Queen Anne/Seattle Center area. Maestro's Menagerie is scheduled through August 29, 2010. For reservations go to

See the list of this season's theatre offerings in the Seattle area.

- David Edward Hughes

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