Written by: Jerry Kraft
I don’t think it is possible for anyone to spend an evening at Teatro Zinzanni and not have a good time. Less a theatrical show than a self-defined genre, the fabulous, rare European spiegeltent at the Seattle Center is the setting for a three-hour plus entertainment of music, dancing, comedy, variety and cirque acts. During the show the audience will also enjoy a first-rate meal served with felicity and good humor by the wait-staff (also an integral part of the show) and you will most likely meet interesting new people at your table. The mood is one of energy and high spirits, and in the current show, “Bonsoir Liliane!” a large serving of romantic French cabaret.
Created and directed by the celebrated Broadway choreographer, Tommy Tune, the focus of this production is the Tony Award-winning singer, dancer and actress, Liliane Montevecchi. A veteran of the Folies Bergiere and a star in the Broadway musicals “Nine” and “Grand Hotel” she has also enjoyed an international career in film, ballet and numerous prestigious cabaret venues. From the moment she appears on stage it is obvious that this is a big-time star, a presence of commanding talent and elegant sophistication. She is also a woman whose beauty is truly timeless and only her vast resume over many years could reveal how long she has been performing.
Less spectacular and athletic than previous Teatro Zinzanni productions, this show offers more intimacy and beauty. In addition to Montevecchi’s many lovely songs, other acts like the lovely ballet dancer Ariana Lallone, the comic acrobatic trio Les Petits Freres and the harmonizing vocal group Diva and the Dixies add variety to the event. The tall, handsome Tobias Larsson adds a good deal of sex appeal and an appealingly good voice. A contortionist named Vita Radionova uses her body to sculpt impossible postures on a small platform. At one point she does an astonishing routine with multi-colored spinning hoops that is so visually attractive that it overshadows the athleticism required to perform it, truly more dance than stunt. That pure acrobatic athleticism returns in the balancing, tumbling and gravity-defying work of Les Petits Freres.
As much as Montevecchi is the heart of this production, the delightful and outrageous Kevin Kent is the jovial host to the laughter and joy in our participation. His character puts a ton of gay into this evening of Gay Paree, and it is to his great credit that no matter how outlandish he becomes, or how outlandishly he manipulates audience members into participating, it is always expertly controlled and so infectiously fun that nothing ever becomes uncomfortable or in questionable taste. Kent and Montevecchi are both total pros, and the contrast of his comic informality with her stately decorum is matched in their mutual command of performance.
As a theatrical production I don’t think “Bonsoir Liliane!” is quite as good as some of the previous shows at Zinzanni. It really lacks any distinguishable storyline, and for all Tune’s vaunted reputation, the choreography is more competent than outstanding. Still, the reason people keep coming back is because they want to see something different, something new, but something that still delivers all the amusement and charm this company is famous for. An audience returning to Teatro Zinzanni because of a happy previous experience will certainly not be disappointed. Anyone coming for the first time will, I would wager, be amazed, amused and thoroughly satisfied. This event (and it is more of an event than a show) is like nothing else you will see in Seattle and it is memorable and unique in all the right ways.