By Frisco Rosso
Last weekend I had the opportunity to revisit Madame Zingara Theatre of Dreams in Johannesburg for the first time since the company toured here in 2010. Those who have yet to see the beguiling spectacle that is the Theatre of Dreams are in for a big surprise, so I’ll keep the spoilers to a minimum.
Housed in one of the last remaining mirror tents, Madame Zing’s current show (El Milagro) is an intense evening’s journey that incorporates dining with flamboyant entertainment. Blending burlesque style with astounding acrobatics, classical cabaret and risqué but comic audience interaction, Theatre of Dreams is an established world class show that demands to be seen.
The legacy of Madame Zing’s began in Cape Town in 2001 as a flamboyant restaurant and dining experience that later expanded as popularity and reputation grew. As with all legends, there had to be catastrophe somewhere down the line. In the case of Madame Zing’s it was the complete destruction of the restaurant, due to fire, in 2006.
Fortunately, the gypsy resilience and endeavour the Madame is famous for was not extinguished, and the Zingara phoenix emerged hotter and bolder than ever. The Theatre of Dreams concept consequently came into being in 2007, and has been touring from Cape Town to Johannesburg and Durban for the past two years.
Once again the show lived up to expectation, and a great time was had by all.
Hot Mr C provided the quirky and entertaining MC duties for the evening and guided the audience through the evening’s El Milagro journey, providing rousing introductions and numerous comic asides.
The breathtaking aerial display by acrobatics duo Christine and Sam opened the show, and was closely followed by the Russian Strength Act that likely left the bulk of the male attendees feeling somewhat emasculated, but thoroughly entertained nonetheless.
Those keen on ballsy show dames, not necessarily figuratively, were not left disappointed as Cathy Specific and the Trolley Dollies camped things up in several shades of fabulous, while drawing the audience deeper into the show’s ambiance through song and witty banter. The advertising plug for hotels and car rental firms in the middle of Specific’s set served as a pin tack on the cushion of an otherwise comfy seat, and jolted me back to the bitter reality of corporate-obsessed Johannesburg, but fortunately the ladies managed to sustain an even flow and keep the magic alive.
In addition, the touching voice of solo performer Carmen Maarmen, the death-defying balancing act of the Chair Stackers, the phenomenal contortionist Ziggy and numerous other performers who need to be seen to be believed, allowed the audience to revel in an unparalleled evening of fantasy and enchantment.
With much attention given to contortion acts, it felt as though there was less variety at El Milagro compared to the previous Love Magic Tour. Having said that, the show certainly made up for this through the supremely talented displays of all performers, which left audience members such as myself hoping the show would never end.
As part of the Madame Zingara experience, an array of delightful dishes were served between performances. While the fare is unlikely to blow the gourmet fraternity away, portions are certainly ample and well-presented, with the flair one would expect from an outfit that began life as a restaurant.
The only let down was that starters and mains arrived lukewarm, and drinks orders took a long time to arrive. Service, although very friendly and engaging, was slow at times – perhaps because service staff were spread a little too thinly. Not necessarily what you’d expect when paying between R400-R500.
Despite the few minor niggles, a night out at Madame Zing’s is like nothing else currently on offer in South Africa’s night life. Although frivolously billed as dinner and a show, there is little that can prepare the first-time visitor for what will unfold. While I could certainly delve deeper and spiral out of control with lavish description, the Theatre of Dreams is better experienced than simply read about.
Go, see, feel – the Madame is waiting.
With more tension than your mother’s suspension, I am Frisco Rosso. I’m likely to deliver a few lines worth at any given moment regarding film, music, sport, books and anything morally unsound that strikes a blow between the eyes in the name of entertainment.