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​The fabulous tent of mirrors will be pitched in Joburg when Madame Zingara brings the travelling circus-restaurant, with a new show, to Joburg.
MADAME Zingara promises to enchant, captivate and inspire all who enter the doors to her magical world in a new show entitled El Milagro.

Top performers will mesmerise patronsTop international performers will mesmerise patronsEl Milagro means “the miracle” in Spanish, and this brand-new show from the Cape Town burlesque-restaurant collective is a celebration of the miracle of life in all its forms.

In Joburg for a limited season from 1 March at Montecasino, it brings performers from all corners of the globe – from as far afield as Mongolia, Ukraine and Canada as well as local talent – to perform a fusion of circus, comedy and foot tapping Motown beats.

“Everyone is looking forward to coming back to Jozi, where we have always been welcomed with open and enthusiastic arms,” says Richard Griffin, the founder of Madame Zingara. “We can’t wait to share the new-look tent and the stunning new show, with performers from all over the globe, with our friends in Gauteng.”

Audiences can expect to join Contessa on a journey of culinary fusion and spellbinding circus performances in a massive baroque mirror tent of rich velvet drapes, stained glass and bevelled mirrors that has travelled the world for almost 100 years.

The story of the show begins in “the land of Zingara [which] has frozen up and we have brought in new acts to heat things up”, explains Craig Leo, who conceptualised the spectacle. “It will be the duty of emcee The Hot Mr C to bring back the heat … He’s essentially the thread and he will be taking the audience on a mystical journey from an icy cold to fire.”

Madame Zingara is housed in one of the world’s last remaining mirror tents in the world, Victoria. It is a 25m big top with lavish mirrored, hand-carved teak columns that help to transport audiences back to the era in which travelling circus and magic shows ruled the world.

El Milagro incorporates famous fairy tale characters, bringing them to life in true, quirky, offbeat Madame Zingara style. “The show has a more theatrical feel to it, with lots of drama, suspense, and mystery,” adds Leo.

Performers include the dazzling aerialists Christine du Plooy and Sam Kotze, rope skippers from Khayelitsha in Cape Town, Ziggy the contortionist, a three-man strength act from Eastern Europe, foot jugglers from Russia, and solo vocalist Carmen Maarmen.

A four-course dinner is served between the acts, which take place on a central stage. The uniqueness of the evening is emphasised by the colourful characters who greet the guests on arrival, the costumed floor staff and the lighting.

A highlight is the statuesque Cathy Specific, who is joined by her first class cabin crew of Trolley Dollies. “Expect a lot of sass and sauciness,” she says. “I am eager to sprinkle the magic once again and this time I am bringing along a few friends … It’s triple the trouble.”

Madame Zingara dates back to 2001, when it first opened its doors in Cape Town, as a whimsical restaurant. This bohemian eatery offered a dining experience with a gypsy spirit.

In 2004, the restaurant grew in size to seat 320 and offered not only an inimitable charm but also a kaleidoscope of dining experiences.

But in late 2006, the restaurant burnt to the ground, leaving little more than a shell. Unable to rebuild what was lost, the Zingara family joined forces with the Klessens family and brought the very first spiegel, or mirror, tent to Africa.

The Theatre of Dreams was born in 2007 – a travelling dinner circus extravaganza housed in one of the last remaining antique mirror tents in the world. It has toured to full houses in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, and at the end of 2008 Madame Zingara took the magic to London.

Mirror tents
Mirror tents were first built in the early 1900s in Belgium, where they were used as travelling dance halls. The multitude of mirrors made it possible to make discreet eye contact with others.

In 1912, Willem Klessens, a young man from Holland crossed the border and headed for Lommel in Belgium, where he married Amelia Kaers. He worked as a cartwright and cabinetmaker, until one day he came across Oscar Horbeke from Antwerp, with his tent of mirrors and his dance organ.

When Horbeke put it all up for sale, Klessens wanted to buy the organ, but eventually decided to buy the whole lot.

In 1920, the first mirror tent was completely restored and christened Het Kempisch Danspaleis. It travelled from fairground to fairground and became so popular that a new tent was built. In 1930, work started on the Nova Danssalon.

Klessens’ son, August, took over the tent company, continuing the travelling tradition. His son, Rik, took over the business in 1984, and decided to broaden the family business’s horizons. He went across the border, going further and further afield in search of new opportunities for their tents of stained glass, velvet drapes and wood panelling.

And then the mirror tent came to South Africa.

Tickets for Madame Zingara’s Theatre of Dreams El Milagro show can be booked at the Madame Zingara box office on 0861 623 263 or by emailing

Prices vary: the middle ring costs R410 per person; eight-seater booths cost R440 per person; the golden circle costs R475 per person; and the VIP area costs R495 per person. This price includes welcome drinks, a four-course meal and a two-and-a-half hour show, but excludes gratuity and beverages.

A deposit of R210 per guest secures the booking; the balance, gratuity and beverages must be paid on the night.

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