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Bacio Rosso Delights: The Circus has come to Town

A red, velvet Spiegeltent has sprouted up in Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Park. For the next few months, you’ll hear laughter coming from inside. You’ll catch the scent of delicious food. The circus has come to town!  

Bacio Rosso brings a Gourmet Cabaret Cirque to Vancouver: with musicians, acrobats, a magician, dancers, and a couple of clever clowns, this is a show both refined and ribald. It’s also the realization of a vision several years in the making.

The show’s Executive Producer and Artistic Director, Scott Malcolm, has directed these sorts of shows before including Teatro ZinZanni, which used to be the closest thing of this kind with a show in Seattle. With Bacio Rosso, Malcolm has brought the big top home to Vancouver.

From the moment you enter the velvet interior of the “Magic Cristal”—a century-old Spiegeltent imported from Belgium—there is a sense of being transported, back in time perhaps to some pre-world war European debauchery. There is an antique bar and thousands of beveled mirrors set in the woodwork, extending and distorting space. Oh, the stories that this tent could tell. On opening night, the serving staff wore corsets, fishnets, jauntily balanced too-small hats, and red suspenders.

And of course, there are clowns to stir things up as the audience gets seated, including Colin Heath, who has performed at Bard and the Beach and many other shows in town, and Kevin Kent, a comic and original cast member of Teatro ZinZanni. Despite their bad press, no circus is complete without clowns: they are, as P. T. Barnum said, “the pegs on which the circus is hung.”

The show began in earnest when Lady Rizo, (Amelia Zirin-Brown), begins to sing. And boy, can she ever—belting out classics like “If I Was Your Woman.” She also perfectly embodies the spirit of Bacio Rosso. Sure, it’s a fancy, dressed-up affair, but it’s also raunchy and a bit unscrewed. In between her lines, Lady Rizo ogled men and women alike, memorably chewing up a rose and spitting out the petals before launching into the next line.

Lady Rizo plays the main character in the show’s loosely told story, involving a family circus and the return of a long-lost brother (Kevin Kent) who is fixated on capturing a magical butterfly. The plot is really just a means of moving this world-class spectacle along, orchestrating the flow of performers and all four courses.

Delivering four courses to several hundred guests is a spectacle in its own right. Servers sprint around the tent, setting down dishes in a well-orchestrated line. Designed by Chef Adam Pegg of La Quercia, dinner was tasty and impressively timed, given the constraints inherent to the venue.

Although there were some standouts, like the lemon cream dessert, the food was not exactly the star of the show. As this reviewer overhead one of the cooks saying to a guest post-performance: “If no one remembers the food afterward, I’ve done my job well.”

Tables are shared and you’ll have a chance to chat with the people around you. It was certainly a social affair, although it’s hard to tear your attention from the stage for long. The servers did their best to distribute drinks, but it wasn’t always seamless. While this may have just been an opening-night glitch, if you want timely drink service, you may be safest to just order a bottle.

After the primi was served (eggplant lasagne) the show only became better, more surprising, and hilarious. A magician makes us question what we know about where money comes from and a juggler (Jimmy Gonzalez) makes us wonder about gravity.

Now in full drag, Kevin Kent flamboyantly squeezed and cooed at the men in the audience, drawing much laughter. About midway through the performance, this reviewer was pulled, rather reluctantly, on stage by Kent and, despite some protesting, made to lose the shirt and put on a pair of wings.

With a trapeze performance by the renowned duo Oliver Parkinson and Cassie Cutler, the audience was treated to a view of fitter specimens. After more excellent songs and performances, we were treated to another demonstration of astonishing athleticism: this time, a solo-performance by Dima Shine, a star of Cirque Du Soleil’s Zumanity for eight years. Unlike a bigger show, every seat in Bacio Rosso is basically ringside. It was a true delight to see performances of this caliber up close.

On opening night, Bacio Rosso was a triumph of spectacle and virtuoso performances. There’s nothing like it in the city. If you have the chance, spend a night under the red canopy of the “Magic Cristal”.