Preview: Love, Chaos & Dinner to Open in Chicago—Teatro ZinZanni Offers It All

Photo of Chicago -based circus performers Duo Rose courtesy of John Cornicello. Provided by Teatro ZinZanni. Love, Chaos & Dinner is not another night of Grubhub and Netflix, but a true night out on the town for Chicagoans and tourists starting July 18. What does Chicago need to make that happen? An international cast of entertainers, circus galore, comedy, cabaret, a giant tent and a dinner menu designed by local culinary star Debbie Sharpe (The Goddess and the Grocer). Thanks to Teatro ZinZanni’s long search for a new home ending in the Windy City, you can level up your date night or family visit with the type of dinner theater entertainment previously only found in Seattle, Vegas and Germany. It has been described as the Kit Kat Club on acid, though sadly minus the drag queens. This raucous yet highbrow night of entertainment will all take place under the luxurious, geometric wonder of a Spiegeltent (that’s German for ‘mirror tent’ and her name is ZaZou) inside of the Cambria Hotel. Teatro ZinZanni isn’t here for a short run either, they are plunking down their big wooden tent full of mirrors and velvet and calling it home (second to their Seattle location), planning to bring new shows on board every six months. Teatro ZinZanni founder Norm Langill will direct the show, which will be mc’d by improv comedian Frank Ferrante. Lady Rizo, the cabaret star, and comedians Joe De Paul and Tim Tyler will keep the banter rolling and the visuals will be provided by acclaimed circus artists: Duo Rose on duo trapeze, hoop aerialist Elena Gatilova, Parisian acrobat Domitil Aillot, and the body juggling Anastasini Brothers. For further excitement and drama, the show's trademark opera diva will be local Chicago powerhouse Kelly Britt, there to serenade the audience. We spoke with lead producer Stanley Feig about what it means for Teatro ZinZanni to be in Chicago after the long search for their perfect home here: What sort of first show can audiences expect to see? Will it be sexy, comedic, musical, all of the above? It's definitely comedic. The founder of Teatro ZinZanni is actually from the area, and has wonderful Midwest sensibilities. He's not coming here to bring you a slick Hollywood production. He understands the culture. You could bring your kids to the show and you can bring your grandparents to the show. There is no profanity, and isn't sexy in the eyes of the beholder? Kids will be laughing in joy on one hand and grandparents will enjoy something else. It's appropriate for dates. It's meant to be celebratory. We do a lot of groups, anniversaries, wedding parties, corporate outings. What we promise is that you can have two feet of snow on the ground and you'll forget that it's there when you're in our hands because that's what we want to do. We are here to give you joy and to help you forget. That's beautiful.  In many ways, Chicago is ripe for a big circus presence like Teatro ZinZanni, but it’s been on your radar as a town to settle the show in for a few years. Why Chicago? Chicago embraces a theatrical experience--although we're not theater, and we're not circus. We can't fit any elephants in our Spiegeltent so we're more ‘cirque’ than circus. But Chicago embraces what we have to offer. There is a 20-year history of success with Teatro ZinZanni, and this is very important to the performers. They've waited a long time to be here. I've been looking for a location for a good eight years and given the requirements that the Spiegeltent demands, it's taken this long to find, but Chicago was always the main choice. Dinner theater circus opens you up to a high-end audience. How do you plan to keep the city and the tourists engaged with attending your show through all seasons? The shows change a bit because a lot of the show is spontaneous. We have audience participation for example. Our first lead Franco is absolutely brilliant. The show will feel different every time.  We will rotate the show every five or six months. Different cast, different show, different everything. But the first three shows have already been cast with the very, very finest performers that they featured over 20 years. Yeah. So, I'm feeling good. Really, really good. Love, Chaos & Dinner opens on July 18. Tickets range from $99 to $169 and include a four-course meal.
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Kim Campbell

Kim Campbell (they/them) is a freelance editor, podcaster and creative writer who has spent a career focusing on the arts, particularly literature, theater and circus. Former editor of CircusTalk News, they have written about theater and circus for Third Coast Review since its very beginning. Kim is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the International Network of Circus Arts Magazines. In 2019, they were on the jury of FIRCO in Madrid (Circus Festival Iberoamericano) and in 2021 they were on the voting committee for the International Circus Awards. See their tweets at @kimzyn or follow them on Instagram.