Teatro ZinZanni is a nearly perfect night out

Photos by Elliot Fisher

Teatro ZinZanni, located on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel, is something like a pared-down Cirque du Soleil blended with a rock show and a three-course dinner. In its newest incarnation (still called Love, Chaos, and Dinner), TZ’s superb cast, crew, musicians, and chefs have once more put together a marvelously complete entertainment package perfect for a night on the town. I have only one complaint, which I will get to in a bit, but even with that, the ZinZanni experience remains one of the best in the city.

It begins as you are whisked to the 14th floor by a very friendly staff member. Wait, no: it begins when you realize that this is a party and select your outfit accordingly. Seriously, it’s certainly not required, but many patrons dress in sparkling sequins, multicolored tuxes, elbow-length gloves, or whatever else tickles their fancy. TZ is one of the last theatrical venues where dressing up is still de rigueur, and it’s fun to see what fellow patrons come up with. (My husband says to write that he had on a Hawaiian shirt and a sportcoat with many buttons. Needless to say, we were not among the glitterati.)

The elevator is next.

(Vita Radionova)

The lobby into which you are let out is part of the experience too. As you make your way to the mirrored spiegeltent where everything takes place, you will pass many exhibits (most of which invite you to take pictures) and mingle with others who have come for the fun…or get yourself a preshow glass of champagne at the bar. When you finally enter the spiegeltent and are led to your table, you are greeted by one of the show’s hosts, who will also be your server for the evening. (Ours was a wonderfully sweet and helpful young woman named Kayla who, I found out later, is actually the lead server.)

Picture-taking is allowed inside the spiegeltent as well as in the lobby, and there is plenty to photograph as the serving staff (who are fastidiously costumed themselves) are infiltrated by performers in the circus you’re here to see. Almost all of the performers—whose acts range from Raphael Nepomuceno’s flying and twirling high above the audience secured only by wrist straps, to Vita Radionova with one of the most impressive performances with hula hoops I’ve ever seen, to the sensual acrobatic dance duo of Mickael Bajazet and Vlada Romanova, to unbelievably gifted contortionist Elayne Kramer—also appear as greeters or even clowns, interacting with and entertaining the people at the tables.

(“Doily” aka Kevin Kent)

Finally, we meet the show’s leads, “Mr. ZinZanni” (Cunio, referred to in the program—available only online—as “the demon spawn of Freddie Mercury & Janis Joplin,” which seems apt enough) and LiV Warfield, whose huge stage presence and even bigger voice shine during covers of Aretha Franklin, the Staple Singers, and many others. These two, with their enormous talents and outsized personalities, are practically a show unto themselves. Truthfully, though, the show indulges them too much: did we really need an extended hard-rock set featuring Led Zeppelin and AC/DC? The circus acts, which should clearly be the highlight, get overshadowed by the cabaret-style singing, as good as it is. This is especially noticeable in the last half hour of the three-hour evening, when all of the food has been served and consumed and all of the acts have done their things; it’s as though the show’s creators, including director Kevin Kent (who steals the show again and again as his brilliantly comical drag alter-ego Doily, whose interactions with audience members are among the evening’s highlights), are unfamiliar with the old show biz adage, “leave ’em wanting more.”

In the end, though, it doesn’t matter all that much. The circus acts are all amazing and entertaining, the singing is excellent, the food is wonderful, and the servers are pleasant and friendly. What more can one ask from a night out?

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