As a surprise for my birthday, I was treated to an evening out at Teatro ZinZanni at Pier 29 at the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. I have lived in the Bay Area for years and have passed the familiar tents on the Embarcadero and have always wanted to see what was inside them, so this was a real surprise for me.
What I did not realize when I entered the front doors of those tents, was that I was entering an exotic world of wonderful, zany entertainment and dining. We were immediately greeted by a hostess dressed in period cabaret clothing. In fact there was a lot of staff around, both male and female, attired the same way, greeting every arriving guest. We all gathered in the main lobby area where there was a central bar set up. Also, there was a boutique where guests could buy feather boas, junk jewelry, period hats, fake mustaches, etc., to buy and wear to get into the spirit of the evening. There were also all kinds of props inside that gave it a carnival/ circus atmosphere.
Dinner was announced and were all escorted into a main dining hall where we were all set at our tables. My partner and I were set at a table for two. Without giving too much away, the show and dinner began that lasted about three hours. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Let’s say we saw Cleopatra come back from the dead. We saw acrobats, vaudeville, heard opera, comedy acts, magic tricks, pop songs, broadway, dance numbers, contortionists, and the list goes on and on.
Every course of the dinner was announced with fanfare and an entertainment number. There was audience participation. Between the acts, the cast and wait staff were very attentive to the guests.
There was a very great moment for me. An audience member named Rosemary who turned 80 years old was brought up by Emcee and Star, Frank Ferrante, who played Chef Caesar and the band played a song to bring back memories of her high school prom. Ferrante danced with her. He then asked all the audience members to dance also. My partner took my hand and we danced. This was the first time in my life I danced to a prom song as a same sex partnered couple. Yes, that was a moment for me, especially since I was dancing with this man I have loved for nearly 10 years.
The food was good. I was actually so caught up with the entertainment that I really did not concentrate on it. I had the chicken entrée. There were four choices for the entrée. I did enjoy the lentil soup. I opted for the fruit dish instead of the dessert. My partner loved the dessert. Beverages are extra.
I have to comment on the performers. There were standouts for me.
Frank Ferrante as Chef Caesar: Absolutely hilarious and over the top funny. He carried the show and reminded me of traditional vaudeville comedy mixed with that modern quick, sarcastic wit. His energy was contagious. They casted the perfect actor in this role and his comedic timing was perfect. He is like a ball of energy when unleashed on an audience there is no one that escapes his impactful talent. According to the playbill, the New York Times as described him as “the greatest living interpreter of Groucho Marx’s material.” He played the original titled role of Groucho Marx’s son Arthur’s written work entitled Groucho: A Life in Review in New York. He has earned New York’s Theatre World Award and nominated for other prestigious recognitions in the industry. He has been featured on many television programs and has been a returning performer to Teatro ZinZanni since 2001.
Debbie De Coudreaux as Cleopatra: Beautiful voice and great stage presence. She seductively plays to the audience with enough of a comedic wink to be truly entertaining. De Coudreaux is simply mesmerizing. She is native of the Bay Area and holds the distinction of being the only American besides Josephine Baker to have played Moulin Rouge in Paris. She has appeared in leading roles on Broadway in Grand Hotel and Show Boat. She also has appeared in London West End’s Grand Hotel. Locally, she is known for her sensational performances when she appeared at the Empire Plush Room in San Francisco.
Andrew Adams and Erika Gilfether simply took our breaths away with their very acrobatic, sensual, beautiful performance. It was passionate as they navigated up and down in Circus Soleil fashion. The chemistry and real love that exists between them translated to the stage. Both these performers most recently come from Chicago but have a plethora of experience in dance and performance across America and Europe. They were definitely a highlight of the evening.
Vita Radionova. All I can say is WOW! This beauty from Ukraine put on a sensual, spectacular, wonderful contortionist performance that brought major applause from the audience many times over. It was beautiful to watch. She did it with such grace and elegance. It was like watching a work of art on stage. Bravo!
Les Petits Freres: The trio Gregory Marquet, Mickael Bajazet, and Domitil Aillot from France were Acrobats, Keystone Cops and Vaudeville performers all wrapped up into one. They definitely stole the show individually and as a group during many moments of the evening. I swear they actually defied gravity during some points. Funny guys and they were very engaging with the audience. They were the court jesters of the tent.
The show is directed by Emmy award winner Norman Langill and co directed by Elise “Mo” Durocher. The price of admission is not cheap and you end spending some money on drinks, etc. However, Teatro ZinZanni is an event. It is an investment in beautiful evening that is memory builder for your loved one, your family, a group of friends or business associates. It is worth the price of admission.
There is a sister show in Seattle. The official websites are listed as follows:
Teatro ZinZanni San Francisco : http://love.zinzanni.org/
Teatro ZinZanni Seattle: http://dreams.zinzanni.org/
Teatro ZinZanni Main: http://www.zinzanni.org/