an evening with madame zingara – running away to join the circus

saturday evening we head over to montecasino. it’s media night for the fantastic travelling dinner theatre show madame zingara “aphrodisia”. i’ve been thinking lately that it might be time to retire my circus persona and pack up my burner wardrobe because i’m starting to feel a little schizophrenic, but my red tutu gets another night out and watching the show re-awakens the old dream of running away to join the circus.

as i walk up to the entrance, i am surprised by a “gorilla” who suddenly appears at my side before loping off again – the adventure has begun! 

pic from the madame zingara website

the show takes place in one of the few remaining historic spiegeltents, also known as mirror-tents, which were made around the turn of the last century and  used as travelling dance halls. to date, only about 16 of them are still in existence, including the madame zingara tent which boasts 972 mirrors, weighs 25 tons and was made around the 1920’s. it’s incredibly beautiful and still has all the original art deco stained glass, lights and fixtures. i saw the show last year, but i am again awed by the inside of the tent. everyone, ushers and waiters included, are all costumed. i fit right in. 

our server, jay is fantastic, making sure the needs of everyone at the table, are met. when he announces the main courses and i flippantly ask if he’s on the menu, he answers without hesitation, “that depends on what time you’d like me served!” it’s love at first bite. 

the entree is excellent, 2-person antipasto plates on which my favorite is the sipping cup of creamy butternut soup. yum! the following course, the pesto pasta canneloni goes perfectly with the accompanying rocket and everyone at the table seems to be having a great time. the performances too are fantastic. because of the nature of the seating, most of the performances happen in the air. the opening tango number starts on stage, then the artists take to the air. even the astonishing mongolian contortionists who have flown in just 24 hours earlier, seem to be levitating, even though they are performing on their own special platform. apparently richard griffin (how appropriate that the person responsible for this fantasy spectacular, is also named for a fantastical creature), specifically wanted mongolians because they traditionally include mouth balancing in their act. 

the different sets (all perfectly representing the “aphrodisia” theme) are interspersed between the meal courses and though the servers may be outrageously costumed, there’s an almost military precision in the way they manage to get the dishes out of the kitchen to feed roughly 450 people at the same time. i would love to be privy to the drama in the kitchen, because i’m sure it’s not easy. my salmon (i could have had springbok shanks, chocolate chili filet or chickpea patties) is superb and judging by the rapidly emptying plates around me, so is everyone else’s food.

the tons are melodic heavy-weights and they finish off the show with a medley which leads into one huge party. everyone is up and dancing to the dj. the show may be over, but the party continues. i catch a server, now done, yawning. they’ve all worked hard to make sure that everyone has a good time and it’s a job well done. 

if you can get a booking, go, before it’s gone! you won’t regret it.

(the show runs at montecasino, johannesburg from august 19th and moves to battersea power station, london in december)

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