Opening Nights: Hail Caesar: Forbidden Oasis

Hail Caesar: Forbidden Oasis

Teatro ZinZanni, 222 Mercer St., 802-0015, $108 and up. Runs Wed.–Sun. Ends Jan. 26.

A five-course dinner + circus and vaudeville acts + audience-participation tomfoolery + the slenderest possible wisp of narrative: The TZZ formula never varies, but never palls, either, thanks largely to the emcees who juggle it all. Here Frank Ferrante returns as the flamboyant chef Caesar, a sort of omnisexual Liberace/Chazz Palminteri mashup. The sharpness and speed of his wisecracking improv skills are impressive, as would be expected from a performer who’s earned acclaim impersonating Groucho Marx.

The slinky Dreya Weber, equally skilled as an aerialist and singer, plays a resurrected Cleopatra. Vita Radionova, star of a dazzling how-is-that-even-possible hula-hoop routine, plays an Egyptian goddess in charge of a “love spice” that everyone’s after. Wayne and Andrea Conway Doba—in showboat parlance, a “general business team,” able in comedy, song, dance, character work, whatever’s required—provide the evening’s emotional heart with a tap-dance routine to “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails,” “Cheek to Cheek,” and (what song could more reliably make an audience mist up?) “Mr. Bojangles.” Les Petits Freres and the local Duo Madrona round out the cast and contribute energetic tumbling and trapeze performances.

Despite its mainstream commercial appeal, TZZ has gratifyingly managed to retain some of the louche scruffiness—not in execution, but in attitude—of the alternative cirque/burlesque world, the Moisture Festival and the like, that’s burgeoned in Seattle in recent decades. You pay a lot more than you might for a show at Re-Bar or the Pink Door, but the whole immersive experience still seems a bargain: You’re not just buying dinner and a show, but a lavish evening-length party.

And as usual, the food never disappoints. The highlight of chef Erik D. Carlson’s menu was an immense slab of succulent halibut that I wanted to curl up and nap on.

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