Teatro ZinZanni gives '60s nostalgia a saucy spin
by Milton W. Hamlin -
SGN A&E Writer
RETURN TO PARADISE
Through January 27
The full-figured, full-of-fun leading lady sashayed toward me in a rare off-stage moment. 'You had a question?' she purred in that Mae West voice that zillions know and love.
'Yes,' this SGN scribe replied. 'Did you just say you had the biggest jugs in Morton, Washington? 'Yes,' she undulated, now slipping into Sophie Tucker-land.
'And,' this hopelessly over-matched writer foolishly continued, 'Did you ask the audience to applaud the terrific first number and say 'Most men here tonight like a really big opening' and do a pelvic grind with hand gestures toward the groin?'
'I did.' Now she was Snow White before she drifted (as West would say). The Eartha Kitt look only added to her style.
'I thought so,' this new fan-for-life mumbled. 'Did you plan that in rehearsal?' I foolishly continued.
'You got that right,' she drawled, now in a Dolly Parton manner. 'You're kind of stupid, ain't ya?' she teased in her fab-fab-fab persona. 'I like that in a man.' She started to walk away, readying another entrance, another show-stopping moment.
Pushing, pushing, pushing, this hapless arts reporter dared, dared, to reply, 'Stanwyck to MacMurray in Double Indemnity.'
She relaxed, regrouped. 'I've heard all about you,' she teased, in character again. 'And it's all true. Luv ya.'
And, dear reader, that was just the beginning to a literal Return to Paradise, the new, fabulous extravaganza from the folks at Teatro ZinZanni (literally, 'Theater Zanies') at Seattle Center. It brings back the memories, the music, the menu, the good jokes, the bad jokes, the good songs (Elvis sings 'Love Me Tender' to the steak), and the bad songs of the early 1960s. The new and wonderful house band is named the Honey Tongues - yes, it is 'that kind of a show.'
And what a show it is.
The SGN press table seated four - this great and longtime ZinZanni fan and arts reporter; the owner of what once was the Sea Wolf tavern on Capitol Hill (now the hugely successful Diesel); a Seattle legend-in-her-own-time; and a visiting arts reporter from Portland's Just Out magazine. Friends and colleagues come and go ... just like some sailors in Mae's lineup.
WORLD'S FAIR TRIBUTE
This ZinZanni outing is a salute to the 50th anniversary of Century 21, the Seattle World's Fair of 1962. Gracie Hansen, the Big Mama from Morton, convinced a group of Seattle businessmen that the fair had to be 'saved from science' and persuaded them to bankroll her Paradise International, a Vegas-style kaleidoscope of bad jokes and near-naked women that was a sensation with Seattle fairgoers. And, yes, dear reader, this writer was there, but preferred the incredible topless puppet show, Les Poupées de Paris.
The food - incredible as usual. A delicious appetizer plate was in place on the table as we were seated. A glorious butternut squash soup followed, made with heavy cream and garnished with sour cream. 'Alas,' the fussy one at the press table sighed, 'sour cream doesn't like me.'
Magic time ... an equally glorious bowl of tomato Florentine bisque appeared out of nowhere. Just Out ordered the apple-and-ginger-glazed halibut 'to go.' Miss Legend was 'under the weather' and just drank - taking her beef tenderloin, squash soup, iceberg-wedge salad, and chocolate mousse home 'for later.' As always at ZinZanni, the service was terrific.
Elvis sang, courted Priscilla (my heart be still!) and they married. Onstage. And we were the wedding guests ... imagine. A terrific 'Vertical Tango' found an incredibly talented male/female pair air-dancing in a horizontal position on a sturdy brass pole center-stage. And, yes, dear reader, Whoopi Goldberg's infamous remark about Showgirls, the cinematic flop of the century, was quoted endlessly. (In case you don't recall, Whoopi commented, 'I haven't seen so many poles assaulted since Schindler's List.')
DEAVER A DELIGHT
Christine Deaver - the Mae West, Sophie Tucker, Dolly Parton, Eartha Kitt, Madonna, Marilyn-inspired Gracie Hansen 'with the big jugs ... of maple syrup ... from the Morton PTA Follies' - stopped the show time and time again. One 'dirty blues' number ended with this immortal Fats Waller lyric: 'Some women think men are like pianos - when you find one that's upright, he makes you feel grand.'
At the end of the three-hour evening, the five-course dinner, the endless fun and laughter, this foolish old SGN reporter dared to ask Joshua, a six-year-old at the next table, what he liked best about the evening. He twisted his face, looked at his mother and then his father, asked to read the program again, and then replied, 'The chocolate dessert!'
As the saying goes, 'From the mouths of babes ...'
Return to Paradise continues through January 27 with evening performances. Some 'edited' family lunch matinees are offered - a great idea but, to be honest, the full-length show has nothing to offend children. Details at (206) 802-0015 or www.zinzanni.org. As usual, tell 'em SGN sent ya.
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