When considering Teatro ZinZanni as an entertainment destination, most people in Seattle consider it a “date night” place. Full course dinner, wine, and a show that mixes cabaret, comedy, and circus acts is available almost nightly at the elegant Spiegeltent on Mercer.
But ZinZanni has been expanding their offerings for the last few years. These days, they have special daytime performances for the tots as well as the standard evening show for the parents.
The current production for children, Tambourine Submarine, opens up the company’s luxurious setting to the kindergarten set and sends them bouncing through a rapid adventure featuring the live music of Recess Monkey.
Associate artistic director Reenie Duff puts together these shows, recruiting acts from the evening productions such as Duo Madrona and dancer Ariana Lallone, as well as working out a plot and creating props and costumes.
In Tambourine Submarine, which runs through Dec. 15, Captain Percival meets the sea goddess (Lallone) and sails off in a bathtub in search of treasure. Along the way he bumps into a beautiful mermaid (Rachel Nehmer) who longs to travel outside the ocean.
The sailing bathtub came from an earlier ZinZanni production as do most of the costumes. The acrobatic “seagulls” who help Percival are four children cast from the company’s circus summer camp and Duff found other talent close by.
“Ian Green, who plays Matey, comes from our wait staff and adds a colorful sidekick for Percival (played by Duo Madrona’s Ben Wendel),” she said. There’s also a local hula dance troupe, “these precious little girls,” who wander into the story.
The whole mix of bouncy music, simple adventure story, and some definite “ooh and ahh” aerial moments by the kids, Lallone, and Duo Madrona create “the perfect dose” of ZinZanni for younger children.
“We have this amazing resource with the Spiegeltent and it pays to use it as often as possible,” Duff added.
The children’s show grew out of the special events and the circus camp. “After bring their kids to the camp, the parents were asking us ‘what next?’” recalled Duff. “Now we are using the camp program to help cast for the show, which is real fun for the kids and their parents.”
Over the years, Duff has been honing these daytime shows to be “less talk, more action” as well as turning them into “little narratives with real characters” to capture the attention of their wiggly audience.
On a recent Saturday morning, the excited crowd of children poured into the Spiegeltent, eager to head into open area in front of the band where they could hop, wave, and dance around as directed by the members of Recess Monkey. Shyer ones stayed on their parents’ laps, but everyone seemed to enjoy the glitter, the music, and the happy ending that got them out of the tent in time for lunch and, possibly, a nap.