At Nordo’s Culinarium in Pioneer Square, “Hotel Nordo” immerses diners in its historic building’s past, while at Teatro ZinZanni’s spiegeltent, mayhem abounds in “Welcome to Wonderland.”
Time for a dinner-theater date? The two leading Seattle purveyors of supper shows have several new offerings on the menu.
At Nordo’s Culinarium, a ghostly morality tale is served between food courses. While most of Café Nordo’s shows have a culinary- or booze-related theme, this one is like an extended “Twilight Zone” episode with interludes for a deliciously inventive dinner.
Terry Podgorski’s script riffs on one of the many past lives of the Globe Building, the historic Pioneer Square structure built in 1890 as a hotel. Later it endured fire and earthquake and housed numerous businesses and retailers — most recently Elliott Bay Book Co.
IF YOU GO
Cafe Nordo: ‘Hotel Nordo’
Through Nov. 20, 109 S. Main St., Seattle; $65 (800-838-3006 or brownpapertickets.com).
Teatro ZinZanni: ‘Welcome to Wonderland’
Through Feb. 26, 222 Mercer St., Seattle; tickets from $99 (206-802-0015 or zinzanni.com).
Today you’ll find architectural offices and an art gallery in the imposing First Avenue landmark, as well as Nordo’s Culinarium showplace-restaurant. “Hotel Nordo” imagines four events from Seattle’s past, beginning with a wedding in the 1920s, in which restive spirits of the dead return to reckon with the living.
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The show has its genuinely spooky moments, and a nice dollop of catharsis, as a woman reunites with a lost love, a murderess relives her act of passion, and a mystery involving two of your attentive servers, the hotel concierge (Richard Sloniker) and the bellhop (Opal Peachey) unravels.
It is a quirky batch of yarns, well-performed and musicalized (thanks to Nordo’s ace composer-musical director Anastasia Workman), with stylishly torchy vocals by cast members Heather Refvem, Corinne Magin and Alyssa Keane.
But most creative here are the visual embellishments (including trippy and vintage costuming, such as a dandy blue bellhop’s uniform and a turquoise tux for an enigmatic letter-writer), and director-food designer Erin Brindley’s exquisite little cakes that add up to a meal. There’s a savory butternut squash crostini with green apple and basil chiffonade, and a luscious stacked deck of comfort food that layers baked potato with ribs, fried potato skin, sour cream and black garlic. Food, one might say, to die for.
On Nov. 11 and 12, Café Nordo is also offering a related special event for the intrepid (and well-heeled): “YUREI: The Lost Chapter of Hotel Nordo at the Panama Hotel.” You see “Hotel Nordo,” then reconvene at the Panama Hotel in the Chinatown International District, where a team of Japanese and Japanese-American artists will concoct an “immersive lost chapter to the show.” The $500 ticket also gets you a bed for the night and breakfast at the Panama Hotel, which may also have a few ghosts, drifting in and out of its 1910 walls …
Over in Teatro ZinZanni’s cabaret tent by Seattle Center, another sort of fantasia awaits you: “Welcome to Wonderland,” a very TZ take on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
Here the visuals also play an outstanding role, with marvelous “Alice”-inspired costumes and props: oversized teacups and spoons are brandished. A gilded carriage arrives. There’s excellent finery befitting the Red Queen, the Queen of Hearts and the tall, tardy rabbit. And a slinky caterpillar goes table to table, handing out bottled potions in various hues. (As far as we could tell, no one grew larger or smaller after imbibing.)
The show is a characteristic TZ mélange of clowning, drag improv comedy (from the adroitly randy Kevin Kent), aerial and acrobatic acts, and in this instance a very generous portion of song from returning diva-comic Lady Rizo (aka Amelia Zirin-Brown), who vamps it up on tunes like “I Want to Be Evil,” belting ’em out like Lady Gaga on Ethel Merman’s vocal steroids.
The meal is not one of TZ’s best, and the sound amplification was overkill on a recent night — totally unnecessary, given those brass-plated lungs of Lady R. But no one does fanciful-special-occasion-variety-extravaganzas like Teatro ZinZanni.
The company is also offering a show for youth in some weekend matinees. The hourlong “Super Fun Party Time” features the musical trio Recess Monkey and circus acts. And in a new collaboration with the New York cabaret hot spot Joe’s Pub, TZ is also hosting occasional late-night, solo shows.