I was fortunate enough to take our daughter to the show and we were not disappointed. I had been to a similar performance previously when our son and I went to the Teatro ZinZanni show Big Top Rock (also coincidentally featuring Recess Monkey the day we attended) so I was bringing the high expectations I had developed on that earlier visit.
The fun starts at 10:00am when the doors open to a pre-show carnival. On our previous visit the entire carnival had been set up in the front lobby, which was something of a mistake. People were packed in shoulder to shoulder, the noise level was necessarily deafening, and parents couldn’t effectively interact with their kids. Hobbling up to the venue today on my crutches I was anxious about what I would find but I needn’t have worried. Teatro ZinZanni hasn’t become as popular as it is without careful planning and they rectified the situation by splitting the carnival between the front lobby and the main tent. This gave the audience plenty of room to spread out, gave everyone ample access to the carnival games, and generally created a much calmer atmosphere in the lead-up to the show. I was even able to relax at our table and put my broken leg up while our daughter raked in an obscene amount of booty. To play the games it’s “$2 a ticket and every game’s a winner!” and they weren’t kidding, although our daughter kept returning with swag that was significantly more than consolation prizes. I guess it’s not entirely surprising considering the fact that the target audience for these shows is roughly ages 5 to 10 and, at 9, she’s at the high end of the spectrum.
It was nice to be able to hang out in the imperial European splendor of the historic spiegeltent, which had been built in Belgium in 1910. This is one of the great benefits of attending performances at Teatro ZinZanni. The character and atmosphere of the space can transport you to another time and place before any performance has even started. Considering the old world charm of the setting it would seem incongruous to stage a kiddie rock concert here but as the name implies, Recess Monkey’s new album, In Tents, has a circus theme and the show designed around it by Teatro ZinZanni takes full advantage, creating the feel of a 19th century gypsy circus. The band, local Seattle elementary school teachers, Drew Holloway, Daron Henry, and Jack Forman come out in very brave costumes that involve stripy tights. The music is not vintage to the setting but it’s also not the Wiggles. Even though they’re singing about popcorn and lemonade the music is happily well suited for adult enjoyment (and sanity during the repeat listening kids love to insist on).
The music and circus performance blended well, which is the hallmark of concerts staged at Teatro ZinZanni. There were a number of standout musical performances including the Dancing Bear Rap (dedicated today to MCA of the Beastie Boys) which had the kids dancing around the tent in a conga line, and Sit and Spin in which the band encouraged the kids to hold up their imaginary lighters for the power ballad opening of the song. For me the highlight of music and performance came during Carousel when ZinZanni performers came out in carousel animal costumes and slowly mimed the movement of a carousel during the dreamlike song while ballerina Ariana Lallone danced in a vast flowing white costume. It was a fantastic combination of elements that transported adults and had the children staring open-mouthed in wonder.
The circus acts that stood out separate from the music were no less impressive. Particularly mind-boggling was 10-year-old Saffi Watson, one of ZinZanni’s circus stars of tomorrow, who performed amazing contortions both on the rising center stage as well as in the air above it in an aerial ring. Sergey Krutikov, one of ZinZanni’s founding artists, performed some astounding hat juggling, sprinkled a little magic throughout the show, and accompanied the band on accordion. Korum Bischoff was highly entertaining for the kids as the dancing bear, and Peter Pitofsky led the show as the comical ringmaster and leader of the Pitofsky Brothers acrobats.
There will be seven more shows running through July. I highly recommend you make time to check it out.
Teatro ZinZanni 222 Mercer Street, Seattle
May 5, 6, 12, 19
June 2, 23, 24
July 14, 15
*Doors open at 10AM for a pre-show carnival in the lobby.
$19-$22 – ON SALE NOW
Box Office: (206) 802-0015