Take a visit to 1930s Chicago at the new ZinZanni spectacle
A review of Teatro ZinZanni's new show, "Gangsters of Love," running in the Seattle spiegeltent through Sept. 30.
Seattle Times theater critic
'Gangsters of Love'Through Sept. 30, showtimes change frequently, Teatro ZinZanni, 222 Mercer St., Seattle; $106-$161 (206-802-0015 or http://dreams.zinzanni.org).
Somewhere between the salad course and the entree, Teatro ZinZanni's diverting new show, "Gangsters of Love," starts picking up. And from then on through dessert, it reminds you how this Seattle dinner-theater outfit keeps renewing its mojo.
Of late, ZinZanni's practice of changing up the show every several months has moved the company away from its general circus-cabaret motifs to more specific and diverse themes.
Recent editions of note included Francophile follies staged by the great Broadway performer Tommy Tune. And a spicy, politically topical Latino revue helmed by Ricardo Salinas (of the Chicano satire group Culture Clash).
"Gangsters of Love" chooses another way to go retro. Norm Langill (the show's director and the head of ZinZanni's parent group, One Reel) gets you believing that the fancy Belgian spiegeltent the company performs in is now a 1930s Chicago gangster nightspot.
It's run by a wisecracking mobster played by comedy veteran Frank Ferrante (imagine a less vicious, more svelte Tony Soprano in a fedora and wide-striped suit). The house chanteuse is a bona fide Chicago blues belter, Francine Reed. The house band is jazzy.
There are even a couple of wiseguys leering at the wining-and-dining patrons (when they aren't doing comedy bits or hanging from a trapeze).
The ZinZanni casts are more compact lately, and Ferrante (best known for his solo tributes to Groucho Marx) also clowns it up in "Gangsters of Love" as the club's wild and zany chef. He's a terrific improviser during the audience-participation segments, which are a ZinZanni standby of humiliation and mirth. At one point, Ferrante enlists (entraps?) pliable subjects in a truly absurd competition to replace the cook.
Another highlight: the smooth and skilled tapping of Wayne Doba, who really puts on the Ritz in his homage to Fred Astaire. And Doba's Fred-and-Ginger number with fellow hoofer Andrea Conway Doba is an interlude of cheek-to-cheek heaven.
There's plenty more in store, including fine aerial acts by glamorous Dreya Weber, and Seattle's impossibly agile Duo Madrona, and an impressive balance routine by Bernard Hazen.
The one complaint at a recent performance? Some culinary stumbles in the multicourse dinner that comes with the show: a less-than-lean steak, an overdressed salad, wooden-spoon residue in the soup.
The waitstaff were apologetic and helpful about these flubs. But a show with such quality control on stage should demand the same standard in the kitchen.
Misha Berson: email@example.com