Take a 92-year-old Belgian traveling circus with mirrored walls, stained glass and beveled dining booths, fill it with a burlesque cabaret starring transvestites, acrobats, dwarves and dirty jokes, and stick it in Africa. It is, safe to say, an improbable night out. But it is that unlikeliness that explains the spectacular success of Madame Zingara, whose touring troupe is now well into its sixth year on the road in South Africa and its second decade in African theater.
Just as unusual, this is an all-in-one dinner-and-show experience in which neither element is merely intended to distract from the other. Madame Zingaras is as famous for its chili-chocolate beef fillet and excellent South African wine list as it is for Mongolian contortionists and monstrous soul divas. Binding cuisine and circus is a wait staff dressed as some of the most outlandish figures of literature, music and film—Riff Raff from the Rocky Horror Picture show is there, as is Man Friday—who impress as equally with their bizarre appearance as their magical ability to serve four courses to a crowd of several hundred simultaneously.
Madame Zingara’s produces a new show every year that then spends a few months each in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. Currently, Madame Zingara has pitched her tent in Durban, where the troupe is performing the show El Milagro, hosted by an outlandishly tall transvestite air stewardesscalled Cathy Specific. Tickets range from $50 to $65 for the best seats. Check out http://www.madamezingara.com.