25 January 2013

South Africa: Madame Zingara's Miracle Tour

Madame Zingara's Theatre of Dreams has been delighting South African audiences for the last several years. Now, after a year of sold-out performances, the travelling dinner cirque extravaganza is back in Cape Town for the farewell Miracle Tour. Celebrating the miracle of life and the magical journey we're all on, this unforgettable experience is a feast in every sense of the word.

It all began in 2001 when Madame Zingara first opened an 80-seater restaurant in Cape Town's Loop Street. The quirky bohemian vibe was an instant success, leading to a fourfold increase in its capacity. But tragedy struck a few years later when the entire venue was destroyed in a fire. Down but not defeated, the Theatre of Dreams was born soon after that and successfully toured Cape Town, Joburg, and Durban for almost two years.

One of Madame Zingara's masterpieces

The Miracle Tour is being held at the V&A Waterfront, a first for the troupe. "It is a very great honour to have secured one of South Africa's premier destinations," said Richard Griffin, producer and MD of Madame Zingara's Theatre of Dreams. "[And] after over 180 000 standing ovations since the start of the Miracle Tour, I believe that this show is truly one of Madame Zingara's masterpieces and possibly our best yet."

Getting it all set up wasn't easy, as Love Digital's Devon Brough documented on Madame Zingara's YouTube channel. But the result is absolutely spectacular. Originally built in Belgium back in 1928, the 25-metre velvet big top is one of the last remaining antique mirror tents in the world. Stepping inside, you totally forget that you're in the middle of a parking lot; you might as well be a world of Alice in Wonderland meets the Village People meets HBO's Carnivale.

Grown-ups sat frozen in childlike wonder

Created and directed by Richard Griffin, Craig Leo, and Valentina Love, the Miracle Tour features three hours of incredible local and international talent. From the opening acrobats to the three-man Russian strength act to the American foot jugglers to the final Spanish drums, the audience of grown-ups sat frozen in childlike wonder, hands waiting for the perfect moment to applaud and mouths wide open in constant disbelief. And let's not forget about Cathy Specific, hostess for the evening, and gold-toothed Mr C, who certainly lives up to his description of gaudy and grand!

Oh, and in the middle of all this is a four-course meal, prepared by head chef Lee Cox and his passionate team. (While this is happening, the entertainment continues with soulful songs from Stella and The Specifics.) Much to the pleasure of my foodie friend and I, dinner included a chocolate chilli fillet as well as a platter of chocolate brownies, chocolate spring rolls, chocolate ice cream, and chocolate tiramisu for dessert. (Good luck trying to sleep after that.) The meal is served so quickly and so seamlessly it's a miracle that you don't hear the constant crashing of plates.

Face painting, feather boas, and funky hats

In the end, what I loved most is the way the show blurs the boundaries between performers, audience, and staff. Many guests arrived early for face painting, feather boas, and funky hats so that they could be a part of the magic. Some even had their waiters and waitresses drag them on stage to dance at certain points throughout the night. (I never thought that an old white guy could do the electric slide better than me.) Seeing all these people having such a great time made me understand why Madame Zingara is often called a family. I suggest you come along and make yourself at home!

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