This year the dinner-theater extraordinaire Teatro ZinZanni has already bestowed upon its patrons: 1) a rousing retro-rock show set at the 1962 World’s Fair (“Return to Paradise”); 2) a mirthful Chicago mobster cabaret (“Gangsters of Love”); and 3) a fun romp with some ancient Nordic gods (“Dinner at Wotan’s”).
So maybe we should not grouse too much about their newest, less inspired effort, “Lucky in Love,” which runs through Sept. 8 in ZinZanni’s ritzy antique show tent near the Seattle Center.
There are laughs here and limber acrobats, nifty music and a multicourse dinner. But the ingredients in the ZinZanni formula this time are not the freshest, or the most cohesive.
The theme of “Lucky in Love” is the Las Vegas casino scene, which you know mainly because there’s a wheel-of-fortune-type gizmo that’s spun now and again and a portable blackjack table that pops up occasionally.
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Plot has never been the real point of a ZinZanni show, but here the storyline is sparser and sketchier than usual. And the acts and bits feel random when there’s not much to hang them on.
The cards played: a larcenous contortionist on the premises. A cash prize in a tossed-about suitcase. A wide-eyed innocent who suddenly blossoms into a trapeze artist.
The most Vegas-y elements? A smooth Sinatra-style crooner, played in impressive voice and with comic zest by ZinZanni regular Joe De Paul. And there are those high-kicking showgirls in spangly headdresses, who (bless’em) double as waitresses.
Another plus is the small but mighty jazz combo led by Hans Teuber, swinging like mad through bebop classics. And it’s always a treat to hear primo blues belter Francine Reed, who comes on strong with the apt tune: “OK, All Right, You Win.” (Rock diva Duffy Bishop takes over from Reed in August.)
There’s less punch in the skill acts. The svelte hoops-swirler and acrobat Vita Radionova, the Seattle-based romantic trapeze couple Duo Madrona and the irrepressible Parisian cadre, Les Petits Freres, are all able and appealing. But there’s not much of a wow factor, excepting Les Freres’ killer human-pyramid finale (their signature bit and exciting even on the fifth viewing).
De Paul shines in his persona of Rickey LaRue, and he’s a whiz at working the crowd. His King Kong bit with a streak of the grotesque gets guffaws, though it doesn’t wear so well in repeats. But Peter Pitofsky’s rubber-faced, big-lug-of-a-doofus bit fell flat on a recent evening. Outrageousness is one thing; obnoxiousness is another, and he crossed the line repeatedly.
And the dinner? Not the best: an overdressed salad, an odd appetizer (a sweet ricotta-filled puff pastry that seemed more like a breakfast item), and an ultrarich cheesecake dessert that could induce sugar shock. Our advice: Order the fresh and flavorful salmon entree, the best thing we tasted.
All this said, an off night at Teatro ZinZanni is still an entertainment bonanza, and a novelty date. But if ZinZanni’s producer One Reel wants to encourage repeat visits to a full-service show with a fair but pricey $100-plus tab (matinees and children’s shows cost less), it’s good to spice things up with some new acts — and gamble on better scripts.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org