It’s been awhile since I’ve attended a Teatro ZinZanni show, and honestly, I had mixed emotions going to the latest “Be Italian” production. Even though each show is different, there is a sameness to them. Each show is presented in the same Moulin Rouge Spiegeltent (which is over 100 years old), with a show presented by actors, musicians and artists that you’ve grown to love, fantastic service and even better food. Don’t get me wrong, they always put on a good show with top-notch acts, but Teatro ZinZanni tends to rotate similar and often times, the exact same acts in different shows. After a while, you feel like you’ve seen it all. Not so this time around. Even though the show featured familiar acts, there was just enough twists and improvements to the show that it felt fresh. After 97 shows to date, this is tough to do.
To give you a basic primer, each Teatro ZinZanni show has a different theme, transforming the tent into a special venue or restaurant and there is always a love theme running through their loosely written storyline. And I should probably mention here that each show has element of risqué to it and will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Sexual innuendos are peppered throughout the presentation and depending on whoever is hosting the show, to what degree. For the most part, they are just a wink and a chuckle and married couples will find that it is fun to laugh at themselves, while singles will blush more often. This is the burlesque part of the show, but believe me, this is more tame than similar shows in town. All in all, the humor is meant to poke fun rather than offend.
During the “Be Italian” show, hostess, Christine Deaver does one bit where she is Juliet looking for her Romeo and another where she is dressed up as Casanova ready to give men a lesson on the art of seduction. Silly? Yes. Funny? Yes! Inappropriate? At times, yes. Fortunately, there is more to the show than just making male audience members squirm.
The loose storyline for “Be Italian” is attendees are the first to enjoy the grand re-opening of a New Jersey Italian restaurant and is set in the 1980s. Deaver and Ariana Lallone, who couldn’t be more opposite, play sisters Gina and Tina (I don’t remember which is which) are re-opening their father’s restaurant along with his much younger widow (Rita Radionova). They hire Chef Wong (Ling Rui) as an authentic Italian chef and receive a crate from Italy that contains Papa and Mama (Mr. and Mrs. Maier) wanting to marry off their son (Joe De Paul). But the show is so much more including a mix of ballet, aerial acts, juggling, singing, contortionist and balancing acts, amazing hula-hoops, dance and a lot of comedy.
“Be Italian” is one of the best Teatro ZinZanni shows I’ve ever seen. The music is always good, but some shows have featured opera or music that didn’t seem to relate well to the audience. This one had a great mix of using pop and rock music from the 1980s (with the very talented and lovely Jen Ayers) and traditional Italian songs including one sing-a-long. Each scene moved briskly from one event to the next with no awkward moments to speak of. Deaver kept her routines short and to the point whereas some hosts in the past have dragged the bit a little too long. No act seemed out of place (although Lallone does a tambourine act that is a little odd) and you could tell that the cast tried hard to keep the night feeling fresh and new. Perhaps the only act that felt routine was Vita Radionova (who was featured on last summer’s season of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” by the way) and her hula hoops. But honestly, I can never tire of watching that spectacle.
For me, the highlight was combining the talents of comedian De Paul with Die Maiers. De Paul is hilarious on his own, but playing the inappropriate single man desperately wanting to marry … anyone, is brilliant. As for Die Maiers, Papa looks like a country bumpkin while prim, proper and shy Mama never utters a word or an expression throughout the entire night. Somehow they get stuck on a trapeze and Mama gets upset because she doesn’t have her purse!
As for the food and service – it was top notch as always and if you have never seen a Teatro ZinZanni show, you might be surprised to learn that they jump into many of the acts and often times with your food! While there are a lot of alcohol choices and many around you will partake in it, the staff will not bat an eye if you choose a soft drink instead. The menu includes a Buricotta cheese and mint pesto crostino appetizer, cream Italian bean soup, a caprese salad, a choice of three entrees (sirloin steak, king salmon or vegetarian house-made lasagna) and tiramisu.
“Be Italian” continues its run through June 12, 2016. Teatro ZinZanni is located at the Seattle Center at 222 Mercer Street, 98109. Tickets start at $99 and can be purchased online, by phone by calling (206) 802-0015 or in person at the box office (open Tuesday-Sunday, Noon-7:00 p.m.)