By Larry Taylor/Garden Grove Journal
After more than a decade of triumphant success in both San Francisco and Seattle, Teatro ZinZanni is now in Southern California at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa with a new show, “Love, Chaos & Dinner.” This unique production is part circus, part dinner theater and full of amazing acts and ribald humor. It has been described as a version of Berlin’s infamous Kit Kat Klub from “Cabaret.”
Three-hours of cirque, comedy, music and European Cabaret, it is all served up with a top flight five-course dinner, along with drinks. The venue is a colorful tent structure that dates back over a hundred years. It is erected in the open space between Segerstrom Hall and Segerstrom Concert Theater.
Between courses and drinks, entertainment erupts all around – clowns do their thing; acrobats put themselves through amazing contortions, trapeze artists fly; a female impersonator takes a volunteer from the audience and introduces him to a new aspect of life; a blues belter shakes the struts with her Joplinesque voice; a Ukranian gymnast manipulates a hula hoop into areas heretofore unknown – and the acts go on and on.
A five-course meal with an entree choice of silky salmon or succulent short ribs [a little more for steak and lobster.] All this in an all-inclusive ticket.
Teatro ZinZanni started in Belgium in the early 1900s. A century later, One Reel, the originating company, imported two of their beautiful antique theaters from Belgium and erected them in downtown Seattle in 1998 and in 2002 in San Francisco, on the Embarcadero.
Know as spiegeltents (literally mirror tents), but soon dubbed cabaret tents, they are opulent to look at, made of red velvet and gold brocade, stained glass and deep mahogany. These intimate circular theaters hosted dances, wine tasting, cabarets and celebrations in Europe for decades.
Each tent consists of over 4000 pieces and was designed to be erected and broken down in a hurry. They require no metal fasteners for construction and can be put together by a team of three or four in a day. There are currently about one hundred of these remarkable structures in existence, including the two in America, namely San Francisco’s Palais Nostalgique and Seattle’s Moulin Rouge, which are among the oldest in the Belgian collection. The Palais Nostalgigque was transported in October to Costa Mesa where it will hold shows until Feb. 17, before moving back to San Francisco.
Each of these gorgeous pavilions has a unique history. The Moulin Rouge was nearly destroyed by the Nazis as retribution for a resistance force that blew up a bridge in advance of the Nazi approach. The Nazis burned the wood from the tent in a huge bonfire at the foot of the demolished ridge and smashed all the mirrors.
While very little of the Moulin Rouge is original, Palais Nostalgique was buried deep underground during World W ar II and made it through the conflict unscathed. Both century-old tents are still in fine form. They stand twenty-nine feet tall, with a circumference of 211 feet and have a capacity of 285.
For tickets and information: (714) 556-2787; scfta.org.