Madame Zingara’s fabulous and quirky Theatre of Dreams is now 15 years old. The Celebration has reached its Johannesburg home at Montecasino where it can be seen until 30 January 2016. Still time to book a table for my birthday as a surprise gift for me.
Let’s deal with the real issue for many in these cash strapped times first. How much does it cost? Well, it is not a cheap outing. It starts at R450 for one of the matinee shows and R650 for evening shows and goes up to R1450 depending on the night of the week, the proximity to the action, and the date. Over and above this you will need to find your own drinks, pay for props like hats, masks, feather boas, (or face painting which was my choice in the heat at R100 for a half face) and pay the charming and efficient floor fairies or penguins their fair gratuity. Get your company to book this as corporate entertainment or treat yourself to something special for year end entertainment. My late father once said that a fool knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. The value of a night at Madame Zingara’s is high. It is both show and dinner. They are inseparable. And both are fabulous.
One is greeted at the door by a screeching dwarf and the gorgeous Cathy Specific. Literally the tall and short of people. Then one enjoys drinks and canapes. I drank bubbly before switching to a vodka cranberry drink on crushed ice. In the heat the latter was a blessing.
The Celebration takes place in the world’s biggest spiegelpaleis, a mirrored tent, named Queen of Flanders. It is three-stories (12m) high and it seats 650 people, some of them in balconies. Yes, this is a new tent and it is more spectacular than the old one. It was built in Belgium by acclaimed tent master Rik Klessens and family. It has 3200 mirrors, 6 tons of aluminium, 5.2 km steel rods, 30 tons of galvanised steel, 70 000 floor screws, 1800m of velvet and 1200m of gold tassle.
Our penguin, Jean, arrives to tell us about the food and to take our food order. He suggested that it is too hot for the soup. I agreed. My escort for the evening chose the gnocchi while I opted for a pear and bree cheese with cashews salad. When they arrived I was pleased I had made that choice. The gnocchi, as all gnocchi everywhere, tasted of nothing so much as stodge. The salad was delicious.
We followed this with our chosen mains. I picked the lamb shank while Vaughan went for the signature dish of chocolate chilli steak. We were both very pleased with our choices. Bear in mind that there are 650 people who will all be served in less than ten minutes. Choose something that doesn’t require precise preparation to be to your liking. They don’t even ask how one wants one’s steak. It arrives medium. Lamb shank simply has be served ready to fall off the bone. Mine was perfect both for tenderness and for flavour.
The little dessert tasters were malva pudding, ice cream and a strawberry chocolate cake. All delicious. Be aware that all the portions are generous and you will not leave hungry.
I think that the grapes which were on the table when we came in were meant to be the 4th course. The “old” Madame Zingara had a little meze plate for us to enjoy while settling down and waiting for drinks and grapes, even Egyptian ones, just don’t make it as a course in my opinion. They were very nice grapes though.
The meal was created by top Madame Zingara chefs Emile Goliath, Heinrich Koen and Linda Beuken.
The show is bigger (I won’t say better, because it is difficult to top perfection and the last time and the time before that were both perfect) than ever before.
There are several fabulous circus and singing acts from eleven countries. One has no time to be bored, and one can forget talking business.
I have a particularly soft spot for the glamorous Cathy Specific (Brendan van Rhyn) with whom I first fell in love when he played Pooh in Winnie the Pooh way back when. He is also well known to South African audiences from The Rocky Horror Show. His backing singers and group, The Specifics, comprising Bianca Le Grange, Camen Maarman, Nichole Makoba, Dorrianne Mahlangu, Emile Doubell and Winray Fortuin, gave us numbers ranging from the 1930s through to the 21st Century during dinner.
Saulo Sarmiento, formerly of the Cirque du Soleil, an aerial pole artist from Spain made all of us admire his six-pack, I mean his technique. The Diabolo Girls from China performed a diabolo show, impressive in its precision.
The Quick Star duo from South Africa and Argentina do quick changes. From the Ukraine we had a trio who did hand balancing. The Montreal trio performed some magnificent physical feats with a see-saw. Miss Lola La Plume and a bald, silver toothed, Hot Mr C (Mark Colli) both charmed us. Three lovely Australian lasses charmed the men with their incredible balancing feats. Valo and Bobby then do the unbelievable. Valo balances a huge steel ring on his head while bobby rides a bicycle within the ring. I was relieved to see she was wearing a safety wire because it really did look perilous.
Exquisite lighting design is by Mannie Manim, choreography by Sam Kotze and Craig Leo, who is also responsible for the stage design. Vocal arrangement is by Glenn Swart, and the senior wardrobe designer is Nikki Smuts assisted by Widaad Albertus.
The Celebration of Madame Zingara’s fifteen years is on at Montecasino in Johannesburg from 22 October to 30 January 2016. Tickets range from R650 to R1450 per person, which includes welcome drinks, canapes and the 4-course dinner. 12 Days of Christmas is the matinee show which starts at R450 with lunch. Booking is via 0861 623 263 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Advance booking is highly recommended. Please note the age restriction: 16+