Teatro ZinZanni brings European-style Cabaret to Chicago


(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger

Love, Chaos and Dinner.

That’s the tagline for Chicago’s newest cabaret show, Teatro ZinZanni. This dinner and a show aims to deliver on all three.  A variety of performances include circus acts, clowning performances and song and dance numbers through a multi-course dinner, catered by the Goddess and the Grocer.

Founded in 1998 by Norman Langill, Teatro ZinZanni is inspired by the European cabarets. Langill said he wanted to “create an intimate relationship with the artists.” Teatro ZinZanni currently has shows running in Seattle and San Francisco. 

The show takes place on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel, 32 W. Randolph St., in a space discovered in 2017 when the hotel was doing renovations. Langill had been looking for the right place in Chicago for ten years and when the former Masonic temple was found, “it was a natural,” for the show. Langill said. Now the space is renovated to become the “Spiegeltent ZaZou” described by ZinZanni press as a “Belgium mirror tent filled with unique, historic touches.”

The three-hour show has a show within a show feeling as the antics of its performers and wait staff start before the show officially begins. Performers wander around dressed as wait staff and cooks and interact with the customers between the official acts and during the dinner courses. 

“The food and the waitstaff have to be integrated in the experience. They are the support cast for the evening,” Langill said. “It has to be integrated and seamlessly connected to the show so there is only one experience you are having, not two.”

The “hosts” of Teatro ZinZanni are The Caesar, played by Frank Ferrante, and sultry singer Madame ZinZanni, performed by Rizo. They are accompanied by a live band with music reminiscent of Édith Piaf and jazz classics. “Lady Rizo is a force of nature.” 

Rachel Karabenick, a circus performer who attended the show, remarked. “Her voice, her poise, her humor—everything about her performance was simply stunning. I’d say she is one of the best performers I have ever seen live.”

The cabaret presents performers from around the world along with local artists from Chicago. Samuel and Sylvia are local performers known as Duo Rose who perform on doubles trapeze. 

The show will continue through the end of September and a new show “Decadent Delights” with a diner theme will begin in October.