Hail Caesar! Forbidden Oasis
Frank Ferrante and Dreya Weber headline the current, delightful offering at Teatro Zinzanni, "Hail Caesar! Forbidden Oasis." Ferrante is Chef Caesar, a leisure-suited lounge lizard, who, in his quest for the Love Spice, brings Cleopatra (Dreya Weber) back from ancient Egypt. She thinks he's the real Caesar from long ago, and he's willing to go along with it to win Cleo's love.
As always, Teatro Zinzanni brings together a talented group to give a wide range of performances from tap dancing to hula hooping, crooning to athletic aerials. This show is particularly fortunate in having Ferrante and Weber at the helm.
Ferrante, who brings his one-man show "An Evening With Groucho" to Seattle occasionally, is a tremendous actor with strong improvisational skills, which stands him in good stead here where audience participation is part of the show. Each time he brought an audience member up front, held their hands and gazed lustfully into their eyes, exclaiming in a whiskey-soaked growl, "Look at you!" we could feel his warmth toward the person and, for just a moment, could see through his eyes.
Whether he was tenderly dancing Rena back to her prom night in 1947 or bringing the audience to tears of laughter trying to transform three random guys into the next Caesar, Ferrante's real engagement with people allowed us in the audience to engage as well, making what can sometimes feel like an awkward filler into a highlight of the show.
Weber also has a lengthy resume as an actress, aerialist and choreographer. At 52 she has a physique to lust after or aspire to, depending on your tastes, and she is a gorgeous performer. After Weber's aerial piece in the show, using three loops of colored rope to dance in the air, one of my tablemates turned to me and said, "That's probably the most beautiful thing I've ever seen." Weber's ease and obvious joy in the air is moving, glorious and inspiring.
The rest of the cast is nothing to sneeze at either. Wayne Doba and Andrea Conway Doba as Dik and Mitzi kept us laughing with a comic aerial routine on the chandelier, then later showed off their skill as dancers, with the highlight being Dik's beautiful tap routine while singing "Mr. Bojangles." I loved Andrea Doba's gleeful giggle and her air of innocent delight, and Wayne Doba's ability to hold the audience spellbound with his tap dancing during a night of enormous athletic displays speaks to his level of artistry.
Duo Madrona appears as well, with Ben Wendel playing Dr. Harrington, an Indiana Jones-style anthropologist, and Rachel Nehmer as Babs, Caesar's assistant. When the Love Spice affects them both, they fall in love with each other and perform an awe-inspiring trapeze act together.
Part of the pleasure of the evening is watching the true chemistry between these three couples -- Weber and Ferrante, Doba and Doba, and Wendel and Nehmer -- and enjoying their interactions.
Vita Radionova appears as the goddess Bastet and creates a stunning visual effect with her hula hoops, and Les Petits Freres (Domitil Aillot, Gregory Marquet and Mickael Bajazet) serve as the glue for the production, providing background color at times, a spice of humor at others, and just when you've got them pegged as silly clowns they throw in breath-taking athletic feats as well.
The creative team and technical staff deserve a round of applause for a seamless show with "Hail Caesar! Forbidden Oasis," which makes for a really thrilling night out for any occasion. The orchestra, directed by Hans Teuber, is always impressive and this production is no exception. If you have the chance, make your evening into something special by attending this show.
"Hail Caesar! Forbidden Oasis" runs through Jan. 28 at Teatro ZinZanni, 222 Mercer St. in Seattle. For info or tickets, call 206-802-0015 or visit online at www.zinzanni.org.