Show and Tell: Teatro ZinZanni's 'When Sparks Fly'

Film noir stylings and amazing acrobatics combine to make a light-hearted and hilarious show

The cast

The bottom line

Perfect for your next date night! Cabaret, contortionists, magic tricks, comedy, trapeze artists and film noir/horror stylings: By weaving these seemingly unrelated elements into a seamless narrative, Teatro ZinZanni pulls off another thoroughly entertaining show.


ZinZanni shows are the kind of over-the-top and jaw-dropping performances that make for an unforgettable experience. When Sparks Fly is ZinZanni's latest production, a three-hour extravaganza that includes a multi-course feast and live entertainment. The show takes place in the Moulin Rouge Spiegeltent, an atmospheric century-old theater tent of luxurious red velvet, mirrors and mahogany.

Duo MadronaPatrons who arrived early were offered champagne in the lobby and entertained by accordion music. After we were seated, members of the cast took the time to mingle and joke with audience members at their tables. 

The colorful characters are a mash-up of vintage-horror and film-noir styles. The cast includes The Maestro (Voronin), a mad scientist, and his creations: the Frankenstein-like Junior (Ben Wendel), an acrobatic cat-turned-human (Elena Gatilova), the wise-cracking dog-turned-man (Joe de Paul), a gothic opera diva (Kristin Clayton) and the cantankerous old housekeeper (Dreya Weber). As The Maestro works on his latest creation, a contortionist puppet (Svetlana), Miss Pleasant (Rachel Nehmer), a grant evaluator from the Gates foundation, shows up at the manor and the romance-filled adventure unfolds.

From the quick-witted clowning of Joe De Paul to the magical illusions of The Maestro, the cast of characters ensured that there was never a lull in the performance . The music in this show is superb — talented musicians flawlessly played cabaret and jazzy tunes, and opera diva Kristin Clayton delivered impressive vocals.

Stand-out moments include the combination of slap-stick comedy and contortionism performed by Svetlana, followed by “Duo Madrona” on the trapeze, a pair whose strength and beauty stunned the crowd from roaring laughter into silent captivation. Elena Gatilova’s sensual acrobatic performance on a hanging ring was equally captivating. Every time I see a performance by one of the aerialists or acrobats, I find myself marveling at the amazing feats that the human body is capable of (all while indulging my gluttonous tendencies  with delicious food and feeling keenly aware of my soft, inflexible body). 

The menu features wine pairings for each course, a well-stocked bar and plentiful food options for every palate. The combination of the wildly talented cast, the rich atmosphere and the food makes Teatro Zinzanni my all-time favorite date night venue. 

Parents should know

With plenty of innuendo and racy humor, this isn’t a kid-friendly show (though I did spot a family who brought their teenage children along). It’s worth splurging on a sitter.

Teatro Zinzanni does put on some kid-friendly productions throughout year, which offer a chance for the entire family to see some of their talented performers. Check out our review of their current kids' show, Dream On, for details.  


If you go

Where: Teatro ZinZanni, 222 Mercer St., Seattle

Tickets: Start at $99. Buy online.

Performance scheduless:

Showings are through September 21.

Thursday–Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, 5:30 p.m.
Select Wednesday showings at 6:30 p.m.

Tip: Arrive early so you’ll have time to explore the tent, order a drink from the bar and mingle with cast members.

Parking: There are parking lots nearby, but if you arrive early you may be able to snag street parking. There are paid parking lots located west and north of Teatro ZinZanni off 2nd Avenue North and Roy Street. In addition, the Seattle Center Parking Garage is located on 3rd Avenue North. 

Photos aren’t allowed during performances, so plan to snap a few photos before or after the show. There is also a staffer at the show who offers his self-described “paparazzi” services if you request it.


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