More than a decade coming: Teatro ZinZanni debuts in Chicago's Loop
As Teatro ZinZanni begins Chicago performances of "Love, Chaos & Dinner" this week, it will be the fruition of 14 years of searching for the perfect Windy City location.
"We actually looked at 10 different sites," said Norman Langill, a Wisconsin native and the founder/creative director of Seattle-based Teatro ZinZanni since 1998. "I've always wanted to go to Chicago with ZinZanni."
Teatro ZinZanni built itself up as a wildly successful environmental show that combines circus, cabaret, clowning and a four-course dinner all within an intimate Belgian Spiegeltent. Teatro ZinZanni also spawned a thriving San Francisco outpost along the touristy Embarcadero from 2000 to 2011, with plans to return by 2021.
But Chicago's harsh winters were a dicier proposition for Teatro ZinZanni to operate year-round. Lucky for Langill, Broadway in Chicago President Lou Raizin alerted him to a rediscovered 14th-floor theater space amid renovations for the Cambria Hotel's location in the Loop (the same 1926 building that houses the James M. Nederlander Theatre).
"It was tall enough -- which was critical -- that we could put the tent inside," said Langill, also grateful that the site for what they're calling the "Spiegeltent ZaZou" sits so close to multiple public transit stations.
Teatro ZinZanni had to create the infrastructure for a new box office and restaurant overseen by local chef Debbie Sharp of Chicago's The Goddess and Grocer. So it made sense to briefly revive "Love, Chaos & Dinner" in Seattle for a few months so the show itself could be transplanted as a well-oiled machine.
With a nod to local audiences, the show features a few acts with Chicago-area ties.
Acclaimed improv comic actor Frank Ferrante might be familiar to suburban audiences thanks to his touring show "Groucho: A Life in Revue." Native Chicagoan Kelly Britt is part of the ensemble as an operatic soprano.
The prizewinning and Evanston-based husband-and-wife act Duo Rose (Samuel Sion and Sylvia Friedman) are prominently featured as contortionists and trapeze artists.
"This is probably one of the strongest casts they've put together," said Sion, a veteran of three previous Teatro ZinZanni shows and many stints with Circus Roncalli in Germany.
"We're finally in a show where we can tell our friends and family to come see us," Friedman said. "And it's a great time of year to be in Chicago."
Langill hopes that Teatro ZinZanni will build a loyal Chicago fan base similar to Seattle and San Francisco. Many get in the spirit of the eclectic show by dressing up.
"We've had people coming in tuxedos, other people who come in steam punk and others show up like they've just mowed the lawn in shorts and a T-shirt," Langill said. "The crowd is a democratic mix and everyone's welcome."
• • •
Teatro ZinZanni presents "Love, Chaos & Dinner"
Location: Spiegeltent ZaZou at Cambria Hotel, 32 W. Randolph St., Chicago, (312) 488-0900 or zinzanni.com/chicago
Showtimes: 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday (6 p.m. cocktail hour), noon Sunday (also select Saturdays starting in September). Booking through Sept. 29.
Tickets: $128-$193 (includes four-course meal and a three-hour show)