Let’s Hear It For The Boylesque: Teatro ZinZanni gives it up for the guys

The Buckaroos are ready to show their pride. Courtesy of Buckaroos USA.
The Buckaroos are ready to show their pride. Courtesy of Buckaroos USA.

It is no secret that Seattle has one of the most vivid and lively burlesque scenes in the country. From the nouveau burlesque of Lily Verlaine and Miss Indigo Blue to the vaudevillian comedy of Flirty Sanchez and Bella Bijoux, Seattle offers a diversity and quality that no other city can match.

What is less well-known is that this diversity includes male burlesque, or “boylesque,” as well. This weekend before the Seattle PrideFest across the street, the famed Teatro ZinZanni have announced their first-ever, all-male late night cabaret revue. Hosted by the redoubtable Jasper McCann, Let’s Hear It for the Boys features some of Seattle’s most talented performers. From the boylesque of Waxie Moon and the aerial dance of Jonathan Rose to the Diabolo antics of professional zaniac Alex Zerbe and the comic stylings of the Buckaroos USA, Teatro ZinZanni have represented well just how brilliant and diverse Seattle performers are.

I talked about the upcoming show with Teatro ZinZanni Late Night producer Tim Gonzalez-Wiler and Chris Snell (Chris Pink) of Buckaroos USA.

Seattle Star: How did the ZinZanni gig come about?

Chris Pink: Tim and I recently met, and enjoy a very similar aesthetic. Tim was one of our judges for the Buckaroos auditions and has proven to be a wonderful ally of the Bucks. Shortly after the auditions, he approached us about making an appearance in his upcoming Let’s Hear It For the Boys production. We were of course excited to work with Tim and ZinZanni.

Seattle Star: Mr. Gonzalez-Wiler, you’re the producer of the Late Nights at ZinZanni cabarets. What inspired you to produce a Pride-themed show at TZ?

Tim Gonzalez-Wiler: First and foremost, I’m a proud ally for the gay community, so I wanted to make a night of killer entertainment at Teatro ZinZanni in celebration of Pride month. I also worked together with DeLouRue Presents last year for a post-Pride late night dance party, which was so much fun to produce and attend. I worked hard to put together a line-up this year that satisfies just about every “type” of man, but I think it’s important for me to point out that although this show is sure to please all the gay men in town, it’s also not just being created as just a queer event, that is to say, the ladies will also go GA-GA for this all-male cabaret.

Seattle Star: As a producer, what are some of the strategic problems you face in assembling an all-male revue like this?

Tim Gonzalez-Wiler: One of the biggest problems I think I’ve faced with creating this show is getting the right message out about what we’re going for. My overriding goal with this show was to bring some of Seattle’s most amazing male talent in the burlesque, circus, and cabaret arts. Yes, it’s Pride month, and yes I’ve definitely thought about the sex appeal of the men I cast in the show, but I wanted this show to appeal to both our gay and straight female audience, too.

Seattle Star: Mr. Snell, you’ve worked with Jonathan Bechtel at Can Can for the past seven years now. When did you get the idea for Buckaroos together?

Chris Pink: JB and I have been concepting the idea now for over 3 years, maybe longer, really.

I have relationships with various casinos and have oddly worked with major national country music festivals through some other acts I represent. The original idea was sparked when talking to a casino talent buyer about her highest-selling/most sought-after acts…male revues! That, combined with JB’s undeniable reign as Seattle’s king of bachelorette entertainment–the Buckaroos concept is a meld of these worlds, really. Filling a niche in the male revue market with a genre of music that is familiar to the demographic we are targeting. From there we let the creative evolve naturally within some set parameters and based on our talent and entertainment trends.

Seattle Star: How did you meet with Jonathan Bechtel?

Chris Pink: JB and I met though Can Can where he started off a busser/server. He quickly made the transition to the stage as a very talented Cornish dance school graduate. He’s currently one of our most sought-after performers at Can Can and has become Seattle’s go-to guy for Bachelorette entertainment.

Seattle Star: With the Buckaroos, you have put together an incredible group of people. Keon Price, who has danced with hip-hop groups like Cruz Control and also with Lar Lubovitch; Benjamin Meersman, with The Offshore Project, Spectrum Dance Theater and the Seattle Opera; Eric Esteb, with The Cabiri and the 5th Avenue Theater; and Jonathan, of course. All of them, also, have been Can Can Castaways. I know Mazen Award Winner Kaleb Kerr and Joe Frothingham more from theater and music. How did you assemble the group? And how do you harness all that energy on stage and shape it into your style?

Chris Pink: We are so honored to have this amazing talented group of performers. We started with our primary go-to male Can Can dancers (Ben, Keon, JB) and then held auditions at Fred Wildlife Refuge, where we picked up Eric and Joe. Kaleb was a natural fit as the Narrator, as he is a genius actor and comedian and we’ve worked with him so often over the years.

Eric and Joe were no-brainers for us. Eric was recommended by Tim at ZinZanni and killed the auditions as a multi-talented dancer, actor and aerialist. Joe, on the other hand, had no real dance training but possessed the raw, honest, country boy energy we were looking for. He shot gunned a beer and chopped a fucking log at his audition! It doesn’t get any more country than that. He had every female and gay male squealing every time he walked in the room.

With this foundation we take the skills of each performer and use them to the best of their ability, then plug them into our aesthetic and story. Jonnyboy (aka Bronco in this show) is choreographing the show and Kaleb, JB and I are writing the script. After the creative direction, branding and concept it becomes about directing. A little gentle guidance and promotion for me and putting together the meat of the dances, choreography, rehearsing and work shopping for JB. We more or less plug in all the various elements, fine tune it and we have a show!

Jonathan Rose on corde lisse. Photo by Michelle Bates.
Jonathan Rose on corde lisse. Photo by Michelle Bates.

Seattle Star: Tim, you’ve assembled an incredible array of talent along with the Buckaroos, with dancers, jugglers, aerial artists, musicians and the whole shebang (he-bang?). The diversity of the talent for the evening reflects your long-standing concern for diversity in your programs as well. When you look back at the shows you’ve produced, are there any areas in which you would like to diversify even further?

Tim Gonzalez-Wiler: There’s always room for growth and further exploration of cultures, lifestyles, aesthetics, etc, but I’ve really tried to feature a wide array of performance disciplines throughout my time producing late night cabarets at Teatro ZinZanni. This is a variety show format, with me as the curator of the evening, so I hire pre-existing acts, as opposed to creating new pieces specifically for the show. However, when I hire my artists, I do often encourage them to pick one of their more infrequently performed acts, ones that may step outside the norm of their particular discipline. Teatro ZinZanni’s mission statement is that we are “dedicated to the creation, presentation and preservation of one-of-a-kind live performances to create transformative experiences that break barriers between artists and audiences.” I try to live up to that mission statement by hiring a diverse array of talent, challenging common preconceptions about the variety arts forms, and presenting them in a unique theatricalized, variety show package.

Seattle Star: Your late-night shows also seem to me to have an economic aspect to them. With their much lower ticket prices than the Spiegeltent dinner shows, they seem to attract a broader audience as well. Has that always been a concern of yours?

Tim Gonzalez-Wiler: It’s not a concern at all for me, personally, that I’m attracting a broader audience with these shows. It is, in fact, one of my goals with the events. I definitely have had a challenge keeping up the level of artistic excellence that Teatro ZinZanni is known for, with such a low ticket price, but this town is chock full of absolutely brilliant performers. I’d like to think I’ve got a good enough eye for talent that I can cleverly put together a lineup that is supported by our “one night only” budget but will still entertain and amaze. I’ve always been amazed at the broad demographic range I attract with these late night cabarets. I definitely have a higher percentage of the under 40 crowd than the main dinner show at Teatro ZinZanni, which is to be expected, but I’d wage a good 15% of my audience is generally in their 50s and 60s as well. That’s no small feat to draw that demographic to a late night show. It’s always been important for me to not be a copy cat of our main dinner show format, but I do try to bring a theatricality and excitement to the late nights that you would come to expect from one of our shows.

Seattle Star: One more thing for Chris. You have a show coming up also at the Triple Door on July 25th. Announced as your debut show, I presume it’s full-length? How different will it be from your show at ZinZanni?

Chris Pink: Yes! July 25, 26, 27 we will have the World Premiere of the Buckaroo’s full-length show. Our ZinZanni appearance will be a small excerpt (one number) from the full-length show.

Seattle Star: Thank you, gentlemen!

The Boys poster

Teatro ZinZanni is thrilled to announce its first-ever, all male late night cabaret revue, Let’s Hear It For The Boys. This pre-Pride weekend, pre-funk variety show features Seattle’s best boylesque, drag, and circus talents under the legendary Teatro ZinZanni spiegeltent. Complete with a “Catwalk-Off,” a dance party intermission and post-show dancing to the beats of the one and only DJ Nark, Let’s Hear It For The Boys is the ultimate, one-night-only event to kick off PRIDE celebrations.

Let’s Hear It For The Boys features the jack-of-all-trades entertainer and host, Jasper McCann, international boylesque sensation Waxie Moon, the sexy comedic male revue Buckaroos USA, former Can Can Castaway and crowd favorite Faggedy Randy, drag king performance artist Lou Henry Hoover, Diabolo artist Alex Zerbe, and other local cabaret sensations. Party-goers are encouraged to arrive as early as 10:30pm for a pre-show drink in Teatro ZinZanni’s gorgeous lobby and to nosh on light-bite dishes from the a la carte menu. Tableside food and drink service will continue throughout the event.

June 22 from 11:15pm-1:30am. Doors at 10:30pm. Tickets $45-$55, including $20 food/beverage ticket, available from Brown Paper Tickets.

Categories Performing Arts

Omar Willey was born at St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in Seattle and grew up near Lucky Market on Beacon Avenue. He believes Seattle is the greatest city on Earth and came to this conclusion by travelling much of the Earth. He is a junior member of Lesser Seattle and, as an oboist, does not blow his own trumpet. Contact him at omar [at] seattlestar [dot] net

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