Bacio Rosso brings cabaret, magic, acrobatics, and more to Queen Elizabeth Park

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      Bacio Rosso
      At Queen Elizabeth Park on Tuesday, October 30. Continues until December 31 

      Bacio Rosso is unlike anything Vancouver has ever seen. Where else do you see a room full of strangers breaking into an impromptu dance party while a powerhouse cabaret singer encourages the limbo in an evening where plates fly, a magician reads minds, and a pair of muscular trapeze artists strip down to their sparkling skivvies, all within a few feet of your dinner table? 

      Complete with a fantastic live band that includes accordion, clarinet, and trumpet players, the show is boisterous and fun. The cast is stellar. But the production isn’t perfect. 

      The three-and-a-half-hour event, which includes a four-course meal, takes place near the public tennis courts at Queen Elizabeth Park in a spiegeltent, or “mirror tent” (because of the hundreds of bevelled mirrors inside). Named the Magic Cristal, it was imported from Belgium just for the run and is draped in red velvet. 

      Meaning “red kiss” in Italian, Bacio Rosso is full of surprises. Without having to include a spoiler alert, suffice it to say this is a show that breaks down the fourth wall. There are two stages, one for the musicians and one in the centre of the intimate room where much of the comedy, acrobatics, dancing, and magic takes place; however, performers also make their way throughout much of the space, whether they’re playing percussion or impossibly pulling dollar coins from behind spectators’ ears.

      The artists are standouts in their respective fields, with Russia’s Dima Shine standing on one hand atop a rotating pole, the shirtless former Cirque du Soleil member wowing with his graceful strength. Unlike in most other circus shows, though, performers here are so close that we can see beads of sweat forming on their sculptural bodies; their proximity makes the physicality of their acts all the more impressive. 

      We couldn’t get enough of two performers in particular. New York’s Lady Rizo, a.k.a. Amelia Zirin-Brown, has an Eartha Kitt–meets–Lady Gaga voice that she uses to seduce and to rouse; she also has a fierce comedic streak and has no problem sending up the conventions of cabaret, the very form she soars in. And let’s just say that irresistible Seattle comedian and performance artist Kevin Kent transforms in the most dazzling way. 

      Actor-comedian Colin Heath, of The Overcoat and The Number 14 acclaim, is underutilized for his considerable talent. 

      The event’s weakness is the food service. We couldn’t catch anybody’s eye to order drinks. A server delivered a missing grissini (bread stick) with his bare hands. Granted, I attended the show on a preview evening, so it’s possible that early kinks have since been smoothed out.

      Guests get a choice of three mains; go for the succulent beef or the vegan polenta with mushrooms, as the chicken leg was bland. The offerings aren’t an accurate reflection of the quality of that at La Quercia, which curated the menu.

      On a logistical note: there’s parking and a drop-off zone, but in case you end up having to walk from your car to the venue in the rain, consider bringing a flashlight and/or wearing flats. It’s awfully dark in Q.E. Park at night. Once you get inside that tent, though, you’ll have a hoot.