When I envision child-oriented entertainment, I picture hokey lyrics and show-tuney music coupled with annoying voices like, say, a giant purple dinosaur named Barney. Teatro ZinZanni’s new family show, the circus-themed production King’s Wish, is none of these things.
The show stars the music of Caspar Babypants (aka Chris Ballew, lead singer and guitarist of The Presidents of the United States of America), whose kindie rock stylings are silly, entertaining and the antithesis of Barney-like music. In fact, following the show, I found myself deliberately listening to a Caspar Babypants CD while running errands … without my children in the car.
If you’ve never been to a performance at Teatro ZinZanni, the atmosphere itself makes the tickets worth it. The century-old red-velvet circus tent, named the Spiegeltent, creates a feeling like stepping back in time to a 1920s circus. My kids (ages 3 and 6) were dazzled, exclaiming how “fancy” it was. We bought mini hot-dogs and drinks in the ornate lobby and settled into our booth with enthusiastic anticipation.
When Caspar Babypants started playing, the kid equivalent of a “mosh pit” formed in a special area between the music stage and the circus platform (which had the power of “magically” raising and lowering). The show alternated between songs where kids could get their wiggles out and amazing circus-style acts.
The story begins with the King (played by the zany Peter Pitofsky) wishing on a magic lantern that he could be a circus master. The Genie appears (played by elegant ballerina Ariana Lallone) to grant his wish and the music-filled extravaganza ensues.
One of the most captivating parts of the show was when child contortionist/hoop aerialist Saffi Watson performed. During her graceful act, you could have heard a pin drop (quite an accomplishment in a room teeming with energetic children). She was simply amazing.
The other child performer, juggler Max Peterson, left quite an impression on my son, who has attempted to “juggle” anything he can get his hands on since the show. The fact that some of the seemingly impossible feats were performed by kids has given both of my children some lofty aspirations. My couch is now a circus stage.
Other acts include a graceful ballet number by the nimble Genie, as well as a spectacular acrobatic routine from a dangling rope by the King’s Fool — Terry Crane. The dynamic of the King and his fool was spot on — full of screwball hilarity.
My kids both said their favorite parts were the Caspar Babypants songs featuring characters who appeared in costume. A giant tutu-adorned elephant appeared during “Eleanor the Elegant Elephant,” and a conga line formed when “Stompy the Bear” came out to dance.
As for Caspar Babypants, my respect for him grew even more after a friend also attending the performance recounted this story: A little boy shyly approached him before the show, wanting to know if he would be playing a certain favorite song. When Ballew explained that it wasn’t in the show, tears of disappointment welled in the boy’s eyes. Ballew then began an impromptu a cappella performance just for his young fan.
My kids keep asking when we are going to go back. It was one of those rare family outings in recent memory where everyone left feeling entertained.
If you go ...
Where/when: King's Wish plays at Teatro ZinZanni in Seattle on Saturdays and some Sundays at 11 a.m., June 1–30.
Tickets: Start at $19. Buy online.
Rory is a slightly neurotic mom to three young children and ParentMap's social media coordinator. She recently taught herself to play the accordion through Youtube videos and can often be found hiding from her kids in the closet while eating chocolate chips (which she aspires to bake something with but never does). Her perfect day would include a trip to a local beach with her children, taco truck tacos for dinner, and roasting marshmallows around a campfire with friends. You can see more of her musings about parenting at ParanoidStayAtHomeMom.