But perhaps just as important, it's being run by a clown. Patrick Markle, who assumed Managing Director responsibilities last August, is not only a graduate of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, but a lifelong circus fan. "One of my earliest childhood memories is walking away from a Clyde Beatty mudshow site and looking back to see the elephants lifting the tent poles out of the ground," he recalls. "As a teenager, unbeknownst to my parents, I would hang around with the performers and roustabouts whenever the circus came to town."
Markle, who built a two-decade résumé in opera management, found it an easy transition to the world of ZinZanni. "I see it as going from one three-ring circus to another," he jokes. "Coming to ZinZanni was certainly a change of direction, but it was more like coming home. A lot of people call it dinner-and-a-show, but I call it dinner-in-a-show because the dining is so fully integrated with the entertainment experience."
Indeed, visitors to ZinZanni will find a fluffy romantic comedy served around a palate-pleasing five-course meal. In addition to the fabulous Montevecchi as Madame ZinZanni and the gifted comedian (and longtime ZinZanni stalwart) Frank Ferrante as Caeser, the current company also includes some of the world's top performers.
From the Ukraine, lithe and beautiful contortionist Vita Radionova isolates parts of her body in exquisite movements that not only entice, but seem to defy laws of anatomy and gravity; meanwhile, her husband, Mickael Bajazet, looks to repeatedly risk multiple injuries as part of the free-falling tumblers Les Petits Frères (with Gregory Marquet and Domitil Aillot).
Rounding out the cast are Vertical Tango -- American Sam Payne and Swiss-born Sandra Feusi -- who do exactly what their name promises: the limber pair dance an electrically sensual scene of seduction up and down a pole temporarily placed at the center of the tent for their moment. And last but not least is Seattle native Rachel DeShon as a saucy soubrette whose soprano stylings evoke the best of Julie Andrews, particularly in a highly comic rendition of "The Lonely Goatherd" from The Sound of Music.
Also worth mentioning is the exceptional restaurant staff, who gamely join the fray with their own characters while keeping the food and drink flowing. "I continue to be amazed at their ability to disappear," says Markle. "They know just the right moment to duck behind a column and get out of the way, and they do it very elegantly. Not only do they have to provide service to the audience, but they have to constantly bear in mind the safety of the artists."
Audiences who want to see the future of ZinZanni can come by on Saturday, July 10 for a performance from Camp ZinZanni, a training program for youth aged 9-16 . "What really sets this program apart from others is the fact that Frank, Sam, Sandra and other artists in our show right now will actually be teaching the kids what they do every night so they can get that experience," says Brady Brophy Hilton, the camp's director.