Teatro Zinzanni: Good fun that doesn’t come cheap

For white day this year, I took Anne to Teatro Zinzanni, a type of dinner theater that mixes vaudeville, circus and burlesque.  It’s been a round for a while now in Seattle, indeed it started here, but I figured it for a somewhat commercial enterprise with a bit too much in your face wacky.  Still, I thought since it had stood the test of time and Anne had been jonesing for some live theater so it was worth a try.

I’ll kill the suspense and let you know up front, my fears were unfounded and it wildly exceeded most expectations.  Both Anne and I thought it was a joyous, hilarious and all around delightful 4 hours of food and entertainment.

The Price

You should know up front it is expensive.  Tickets are around $120 per person and that is just the beginning.  All the seats in the place are very good, but if you want to sit right up next to the action it will cost a little extra $10-$30 or so.  Of course if you don’t like being near the center of the action, the somewhat darker booths in the outer ring are a good bet.  Still plenty close enough to see and hear everything but your less likely to get direct attention from the performers or to turn around to see action happening hither and thither.  If you order on line or by phone you also pay a hefty service charge ($7.50) per person.  I bit the bullet as I was ordering last minute, but its very hefty.  In addition to all that drinks are extra, as are various dinner upgrades you can order while at your table, and there is a fixed drink service charge of $10 per person, and there is tax and they suggest an additional tip for your wait staff if you are so kind.  And they have the usual gift shop and photo services and so forth.  If you want to drop mad cash they make it really easy for you.

Still, it felt like we were getting what we paid for and that every step of the way their mission is to deliver a really great evening pulling out nearly all the stops to make it as great as it can be.

The Venue


Their “tent” is just north of the Seattle Center.  And while it looks tent like on the inside it’s a real building and is nicely heated/cooled.  The lobby which you can mull about in is decorated very retro swank with velvet and mirrors, photos of the performers and so forth.  All the staff is in costume at all times and are on performance at all times.  They have a big gift shop filled with canes, feather boas, masks, hats and whatever you would need to deck yourself out for mardi gras.  Its all high quality and rather expensive.  Across from the gift area and coat check is a well appointed bar where you can start your drink tab and get an early start on things.

The performance area is a round tent around 300′ in diameter.  It’s nicely gilded and decorated.  A traditional stage for the band is at one end, a cicular platform is in the middle of the tent and three gangways lead off from it through the floor space dividing up the room into sections.  Many tables are densely scattered on the floor and there are ample booths ringing the tent.  The temperature and lighting was perfect as were the views of the action from anywhere in the room.

The Food

You get 5 courses for dinner, starting with a small appetizer, then soup, then salad, then the main course, and finally desert.  Choices are a bit limited but they stick to tried and true dishes so its bound to work for most folks.  Everything was quite tasty if a bit lacking in adventure or spice.  Ingredients seemed of very high quality and flavors were satisfying.  Anne got the wine pairing and she testified that both the match ups and individual quality of the wines were well worth the price paid $35.  Portions were just about perfect.

Each course is followed by a good 30 minutes of performance at the end of which the next course is announced.  The performance and serving of food is integrated but they pause the “show” for each serving and to allow some time to eat without feeling like you might miss something.  None the less the performers take this time to roam the floor interacting with folks at tables on an individual basis, running shtick or acting out little scenes.  The timing is really quite perfect both in that you get a nice long time to savor and digest your meal yet are never for a lack of something entertaining happening.  Its the perfect pacing for a multi course meal and you leave satisfied but not stuffed to the gills.

The Service

While your waiters are not actors in the show they are performers and with each meal come dancing into the ring to deliver the first set of dishes in coordinated fashion.  Then they return to graceful but normal serving.  They are very attentive when the main show is not running and scurry about delivering water or collecting plates like ninja when the show is in full swing.  Pretty much spot on perfect.

The Performance

This is what its all about.  The cast are all both actors and performers, singing, dancing, doing acrobatics, and acting.  Over the course of the eventing there was slapstick comedy, tap dancing, multiple songs, tight rope walking, trapeze work, acrobatics, music from the live band, elaborate props, amazing costumes, improvised comedy, tango pole dancing, and so on.  The show was anchored by a comedic actor with a penchant for cross dressing who had me and Anne in stitches many times.  Since I’ve done some acting I have a tendency to look critically on a lot of actor’s work but this guy was pure brilliance.  He did a lot of work with selected victims from the audience so be warned.  If you are a white collar looking white male of medium size you may be in danger of “participating” by way of being embarrassed by captain cross dresser in his routine.  Clearly for a drag queen the straighter you look, the better a subject you are for such comedy, so be warned.

The other performers all delivered great performances but they were clearly selected for their individual talents, singing, high wire work, dancing.  Each had some truly impressive talents.  At one point two performers do a kind of tango dance on a 30′ vertical pole that has to be seen to be believed.  It was an awe inspiring display of grace and strength.  While I’ve seen similar things before in a large performance hall, the small intimate setting has you right there in the middle of the action and it makes a big difference in appreciating it.  Between sets all the actors interact with the diners directly and at times the audience is invited to dance or clap or at one point kiss and none of it felt perfunctory, you really wanted to participate in the fun everyone was having.

When All Is Said and Done

When you consider the large and talented cast, the quality food, the 4+ hours of entertainment, the fine venue, and the small size of the audience the hefty price tag starts to make a lot more sense.  They are not cutting any corners on this show, instead they are working every angle possible to make it a really slam dunk evening and give a true artful experience.  When the evening was over my first thought was how I wanted to come again as soon as possible.

But Wait There’s More!

Doing a bit of research I was suprised to learn that Teatro Zinzanni is run by a non-profit arts group, One Reel, the same one that runs Bumbershoot and a number of other Seattle Art events.  So not only are you having a great time you are supporting community arts and artists at the same time.

So, if you want to plan a date that is going to really satisfy and don’t mind dropping $300+ for a stellar evening I very highly recommend you give it a try.  I don’t think there is any way you could be disappointed.

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