The Instagram-friendly crescent moon remains in the Cambria Hotel’s 14th-floor lobby, though the signage above now says Cabaret ZaZou rather than Teatro ZinZanni. The basic structure of the over two-hour spectacular “Cabaret ZaZou presents Luminaire” remains similar to the hallmark of Randolph Entertainment LLC, which has made it a point to bring world-class circus performers to the lavish “Spiegeltent” installed in the store. Hotel.
Like ZinZanni, “Luminaire” features a dazzling parade of extraordinary contortionists, acrobats, jugglers and aerialists in a venue so intimate you can see them sweating. As before, circus acts are woven together by an adorable clown (played by ZinZanni star Frank Ferrante) and live music. It’s all accompanied by a nice four-course meal and the chance to drop some serious coin on a gift shop tiara.
‘Cabaret ZaZou presents Luminaire’
But where Teatro ZinZanni was a substantial-as-bubble confection, Dreya Weber-directed “Luminaire” packs a punch with feel-good laughs and jaw-dropping acts of Dare-deviltry.
Nowhere is the change in tone more striking than in a juggling act by Ukraine-born Viktor Kee, who materializes on stage as a sort of untied, otherworldly, stone-faced Prometheus in a bodysuit. as fluid and molding as body paint.
Orbs of light the size of oranges materialize between his fingers, dance down his spine, tower above his head like fireflies in increasingly complex configurations before the circles of light begin to fall. from above like a hailstorm. Kee ends by rushing forward in a pose that is both defiant and pleading, one outstretched arm projecting an orb of light towards the audience before the power goes out.
The nominal theme of “Luminaire” is that we are all at a “feast of forgiveness”, and there are particular rites and rituals dealing with this. Thus explains Ferrante as Forte the clown. Ferrante is irresistible, works the crowd, and deftly handles cheekily maneuverable audience members as he gets everyone dancing to a Beyonce hit. The “At Last” slow-jam comes courtesy of Liv Warfield, who along with James Harkness provide powerful vocals throughout the show.
Musical director Chuck Webb and his crackerjack quintet create a palette of rhythm, blues, soul, rock and pop and old-school gems. The flurry of opening songs, including the playful “Minnie the Moocher,” make the place feel like a playful speakeasy.
The music pivots in a flash as Warfield enters with an electrifying cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” Where Barkley’s original questions the sanity of two people, Warfield seems to blame the sanity of the whole world as she walks across the stage, a star in her element.
From there, we’re treated to a perky/thrilling roller skating number in which England’s Isis Clegg-Vinell and Nathan Price (two-thirds of England’s trapeze band Trio Vertex, which also includes Cornelius Atkinson) kick in as Olympic ice dancers on a platform the size of a backyard trampoline, less than five feet from crowded cafe tables laden with hummus and cocktails.
Mongolian contortionist Ulzii Mergen is also notable for her frolicking and arachnoid dexterity, in which she plays the piano for all four limbs from an angle that seems impossible.
With Warfield, Harkness raises the emotional stakes while accompanying circus acts and solos on his own arena-worthy charisma and a voice that can go from silk to growl to belt to falsetto without dropping a note.
Set designer/design director Shauna Frazier has the stage surrounded from above in (what looks like) stained glass. With candelabra and chandeliers giving the place the warmth of a brothel, there’s no bad place in the house.
Costume designer Debra M. Bauer designs stunning looks, whether they reference the elegance and swagger of the Roaring Twenties or pure fantasy. For their trapeze act, Bauer dons Trio Vertex in red and black flame-patterned units and leotards, their arms and legs bound in leather accents and straps evoking a Mad Max-style dystopian universe. No one smiles as they whirl straps above the diners, their spins, dives and falls get faster, farther and more frantic until we feel like we’re watching fire fall from the sky .
Weber has yet to time it perfectly. Meal service intervenes on some of the voice acts, forcing the actors to compete with newly plated salmon, chicken and steak for the audience’s attention. Don’t get distracted. “Luminaire” is fabulous.