The V&A Waterfront is a magnificent location for the new Madame Zingara Theatre of Dreams ‘The Miracle Tour’ show, which kicked off in the Belgium-made Spiegel tent last week, and will remain in the Mother City for another four months or more. It must be one of the slickest ‘restautainment’ operations, feeding about 400 patrons each night, with unbelievable service and amazing entertainment. Owner Richard Griffin is the ultimate showmaster, and just gets better at it year after year.
Located across the Aston Martin showroom, in which building there is ample and reasonably priced parking, the Theatre of Dreams is in the small parking area alongside the cinema parking exit, making it easy to get to. GM and Ringmaster Marvin Haddon told us that they had negotiated with the V&A Waterfront management for a long time to obtain a space, and that the retail management company is being very supportive in making their Cape Town run a success. The marquee tent is better protected against the infamous south-easter than in most other locations in Cape Town, if one remembers where Griffin has had to pitch his tent in the past, including the bottom end of Adderley Street under the highway bridge, and in the bush at Century City! The marquee is not very visible, as branding has been reduced to ‘MZ’ with pink hearts, at the front and back of the area, with faux swans, more hearts, warthogs, and more. One enters into a smallish reception area with a bar, and a number of the show characters stand outside for photo opportunities, some as ‘frozen statues’. A choice of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks is offered, and even Richard was waiting outside, saying hello to his patrons. The ‘check-in’ was painless, nothing as complicated as it was at now ex-Vaudeville, which was a Madame Zingara ‘substitute’ in Cape Town for a while, having featured ex-Madame Zingara star Irit Noble. Marvin made it an even more special evening, coming to check on us regularly, and made us feel like very special guests, an amazing ability the Madame Zingara staff has. They really seem to love their jobs, are looked after well, seem to enjoy dressing up, and know where the boundary lies in dealing with customers. Griffin (right, with The Specifics) wrote in his invitation letter that he is proud of the employment his show can offer, with a ‘R2,2 million on group payroll’. Once inside, one sees more frozen statues, the one in honour of Alexander McQueen attracting attention especially. The Madame Zingara Photography Emporium has two seats, and allows one to take photographs within a beautiful frame of flowers. One can have face-painting done and can buy hats and other party decorations.
‘Victoria’, with her stained glass windows, can seat 437 patrons, we were told, and one does not feel cramped. The stage runs down the middle of the tent, half way, almost like a fashion ramp, the end part being raised up or down, and also revolving, used for amazing effects. Depending on the size of one’s party, one is seated at tables on a raised section further back for larger groups. Tables near the stage run the risk of being picked on, as one gentlemen came to regret wearing his striped ‘pyjama shirt’. Our host and waiter Jason chose to play the little red devil, and he was charming, nothing being too much trouble. He did struggle to get us to drink more than some wine and sparkling wine, and lots of water. The marquee is very cool when one arrives, being airconditioned, but it got hotter and hotter inside, being sold out on Thursday evening. The table has a display of red flowers with the table number, but is removed after one is seated to make more space. A winelist offers wines and ‘bubbles’ at reasonable prices, but does not specify the vintages. Sparkling wines include Pierre Jourdan Brut (R50/R190), Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel (R195), and Moët & Chandon (R650); Madame’s house white wine (R35/R120), La Motte Sauvignon Blanc (R155), Warwick Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc (R185), Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc (R135) and more; Madame’s red wine costs R40/R135, Rupert & Rothschild Classique (R220), Beyerskloof Pinotage (R140), and more.
The action never stops once one sits down, and Cathy Specific (who had ‘her’ own show ‘Cathy Pacific’, and right in the main photograph) welcomes the audience, table by table, as long lost friends, in ‘her’ blue air hostess uniform. Once we were taken through the four course menu, and dietary adjustments were requested, the starter portion of dipping sticks, cheeses, a cream of sweet potato soup, a peppadew dip, tsatziki, hummus, kalamata and green olives, and nuts was brought to the table. A highlight of the evening was being taken to see the kitchen, in which Chef Lee Cox is in charge. Every night he and his team prepare 430 portions of each course, and it is run as a military operation, timing being of the essence, songs being his cue as to when the food must come out of the kitchen. The waiting staff literary run from the kitchen into the marquee, ensuring that the food remains hot, and the dessert cold. Chef Lee worked at Five Flies previously, and said that he orders 1 ton of AAA grade Karan beef fillet (their signature main course) a month. Stock take is done weekly, and on Tuesdays he receives the food delivery to the value of about R110000 for the week ahead. They are recycling conscious, and have a good daily rubbish collection service in the V&A. He has a ‘culinary kitchen crew’ of 28, and ‘everyone knows what to do’, he said. He is proud of his good storage facilities. Impressive was that Chef Lee came to our table after the main course had been served, to personally receive our feedback.
The first act of the show is introduced by MC Mr C (left in main photograph), a local who has worked in similar shows in Germany, and he reminded one of the MC in ‘Cabaret‘, with a wicked sense of humour and a German accent. Cathy Specific too is funny, and has an amazing figure, whatever the outfit. Two acrobats (Sam and Justine call themselves Adage) inside a chandelier-shaped ring, were followed by a handsome Lisa and Daniel dancing to Tango-type music which picks up pace, as does that of the dancing, with elegance and grace. The Specifics have evolved from the Three Tons of Fun, and have grown to four members, singing popular hits.
The second course was a tasty butternut and potato ravioli served on a bed of wild mushrooms. The second act started off with Mr C transforming himself into Marlene Dietrich, and singing a popular ‘Falling in love again‘. Three Russians (The Strongmen Sergei, Sergei and Alexander) look like wrestlers, two being massive and the third small in comparison, perform amazing acrobatic feats, never putting a foot wrong. Two further performers Miles and George, The Acurians, do somersault flips, one on the soles of the other, sometimes doing double, and even triple flips, not all successful. The performers were so professional that when they lost their footing, they did the section again, and added an extra flip, as if it had been choreographed like that for the show!
My main course choice of Venison Wellington was a hefty portion of Kudu loin served with spinach and wrapped with mushrooms and pastry, and mash. I was envious of Katie’s sesame seed encrusted Norwegian salmon, served with lemongrass and litchi, teriyaki sauce, and a fruit salsa, a work of art. The third option is a vegetarian one, which includes marinated tofu. The most popular main course is the beef fillet, served with a chocolate chili sauce.
The third act started with a splash, Sam showing a leg and then an arm in the bath, and got out of the bath, splashing her wet hair on the patrons seated around her and doing some acrobatic acts too. While she and the bath disappeared into the stage, the bath reappeared almost instantly, this time with Mr C, also having fun in the bath! Oompah type music inspired what must have been German patrons to get onto the stage, and enjoy themselves dancing whilst everyone else was eating. They had to be asked to return to their seats.
The final course is the piece de resistance, being Death by Chocolate, a platter with a delicious Tiramisu, a chocolate brownie, a hot phyllo cigar, and a ball of Gorgonzola infused chocolate ice cream. Just when one thinks that the show is over, the fourth act starts, with a Rocky Horror Show ‘Time Warp’ dance in which everyone participates, guided by Cathy Specific. One of the most unbelievable acts is that of Mongolian contortionist Vicky, who bends her body into the most unusual shapes. Sam does some more smart acrobatic moves above the audience, and is followed by two drumming and rope whipping Argentinians. A giant sized disco ball is erected, and the audience that doesn’t have to get up early the next morning is encouraged to dance.
Madame Zingara delivers on its promise, printed on the winelist: “It has always been our dream to build a space where our working family is inspired and empowered and our guests are welcome to be part of the Madame Zingara magic, even if just for one night. We invite you to step into our world where disbelief is suspended and all things are possible. The Miracle Tour is our tribute to the miracle of life and a celebration of this magical journey”. Whatever problems one may have experienced during the day, will have been forgotten by the time one leaves the world of Madame Zingara!
Note: One is not allowed to photograph the acts during the show, so we have used those from the Madame Zingara website and Facebook page.
Madame Zingara: The Miracle Tour, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Tel 0861 623263. www.madamezingara.com Twitter: @Madame_Zingara Tuesday – Saturday, until mid-year.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage