Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-06-09



PERFORMANCE Gay performer Michael Cunio part of 'Teatro ZinZanni'
by Jerry Nunn

This article shared 1154 times since Sat Jul 17, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Teatro ZinZanni Chicago carved out its own niche on the 14th floor of Cambria Hotel back in 2019, with the premiere of Love, Chaos, & Dinner. Blending dinner with a show under the big top in a Belgium mirror tent called Spiegeltent ZaZou, proved quite lucrative for Frank Ferrante's Caesar and the gang in the Chicago Theater District.

After being shuttered for a brief time, Teatro ZinZanni has returned better than ever. Debbie Sharpe, from The Goddess franchise, once again, provides the four-course cuisine and Caesar is back with more than just a salad. Brand new talent has joined the cast, such as singer/actor Michael Cunio, among several others.

Cunio gained national attention after performing Etta James' "At Last" on a PBS concert special called Under the Streetlamp Live! He has released three albums and toured worldwide.

Some stage roles include Corny Collins in Hairspray and Tommy DeVito in Jersey Boys. He won an Ovation Award for Reefer Madness.

Windy City Times: Where are you from?

Michael Cunio: I was born and raised in Seattle. I grew up there. I ended up in LA and have now been in New York for a few years.

WCT: What is your last name from?

MC: It is Italian. I go by Cunio and people probably think I am trying to be like Cher or Madonna, but that is not the case. I was raised Catholic in a private school. There were always at least five Michaels in the classrooms, so since the first grade I have been Cunio, because of my teachers. It just stuck. It is unique for sure, but not a diva thing.

My brothers are all named after saints and Italian. We are all referred to as Cunio, so when we communicate, it's "C1" and "C2." I'm the youngest, so it is "C4." My nephew is "C5." It is going to keep going…

WCT: How do you identify?

MC: He, him, his—and very gay.

WCT: When did you come out?

MC: When I was 18. I came out to my mom first, then to the rest of my family later. My mom was surprised, but came around eventually. Right after I told her, I went to a ballet class. Not that it is a barometer of sexuality, but I had been performing since I was very young.

My brothers are macho Italians, but could not be more loving and accepting. We grew up poor and we disagree on world views, but we have a lot of love for each other. All four of my mom's sons are absolutely living their dreams. We have gone out fearlessly and chased the things we are passionate about.

WCT: Will your mom come see the show?

MC: It would be great if she can travel here, so we shall see. This is my second time in Teatro ZinZanni, after doing the show in Seattle. It was great to be close to my family where they could see it there. I spend so much of my career traveling and don't get much time off.

WCT: Have you been to Chicago much before this?

MC: Chicago is my home away from home. It has been great for my career and I have spent as much time here as in New York.

My relationship with Chicago began in 2009 when I did the last year of Jersey Boys. That is where I met my husband. That job turned into my band where I performed on PBS called Under the Streetlamp. We toured all over the world, but Chicago is where we filmed the concert specials.

In 2018, one of the greatest jobs I've had in my life was performing in Jesus Christ Superstar at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WCT: I saw you in that! How do you warm-up vocally for a show like Teatro ZanZinni?

MC: That is my job. The easy part is being onstage for three hours. I am up at 9 a.m. and at the gym by 11 a.m. I do warmups all day long. I put my voice through some abuse in the show, but there is no phoning it in. I have not missed a performance in over 10 years. That is how much I love what I do.

WCT: How much did you contribute to the costuming of Teatro ZanZinni?

MC: I have a love affair with our costume designer. We call her "Beaver" and her name is Debrah Bauer. She has boundless creativity.

The only reason I stay fit is for the costumes. I wear a corset and heels. I hate heels, but it is a skill I have learned. I told her to go as far as she wanted to with the costumes.

The last show was very different in terms of costuming, where I wore top hats and gray suits. Here, I am playing a celestial creature. We went very ethereal. She showed me the designs during the pandemic and I knew I had to lose some weight.

I didn't know if we could get away with a dress and high slit. Fortunately, the creatives here appreciated it and supported it. I got my ass to the gym and she got her ass to the fabric store!

WCT: There are some very beautiful, androgynous pieces in Teatro ZinZanni. Have you done drag before?

MC: No. I am not a drag queen, but having costumes like this really teaches you a lot about yourself. The costumes inspire about 90 percent of what I do in the tent. I felt bad when I showed my costumes to the rest of the cast, because I win, my costumes are the best!

It is fun and a pain in the ass. The first time I wore the dress in front of an audience, I tripped on it. Making it look cool is part of the creative process.

ZinZinni has a truly creative environment and there is nothing else like it.

WCT: Describe Teatro ZanZanni for those that haven't seen it.

MC: That is very hard to do. It is kind of like a musical and dinner theater. It is like Cirque du Soleil, but also not like any of those things. It is hard to talk about without diminishing the impact that it has.

WCT: It feels very welcoming to all communities, including the LGBTQIA+ community.

MC: It is. That is one of the coolest things about this. I look around the room and there are four year old kids and 90 year old grandparents watching me. It is nice to see teenagers paying attention and not watching their phones.

It is inclusive to everyone and a very apolitical environment. Everyone respects pronouns and identities.

I have walked away from jobs because they didn't pull their weight as far as being inclusive. I am happy this show puts emphasis on the right things in 2021.

WCT: I think people need a show like Teatro ZanZanni to have an escape these days.

MC: I was vaccinated as soon as I could be, and was nervous about coming back to work. I realized that all of the things we had been starved for during the pandemic—such as seeing a concert, dancing, going to dinner and attending a drag show—are all under this tent. It is the ultimate one-stop shop!

Follow Cunio on social media at Cunio4. Swing over to for tickets to Teatro ZinZanni, 32 W. Randolph St.

This article shared 1154 times since Sat Jul 17, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

THEATER 'Intimate Apparel' surfaces in Utah after delayed Northlight staging 2021-08-02
- Some Chicago-area theaters plan to welcome back live audiences with shows that were physically on their stages at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown last year. That's not the case with Intimate Apparel at Northlight ...

Gay News

First-ever managing artistic director of Fine Arts Building named 2021-08-02
- Following a comprehensive national search, theater director and producer Jacob Harvey has been named the first-ever managing artistic director of the historic theaters at Chicago's Fine Arts Building at 410 S. Michigan Ave. Harvey returns to ...

Gay News

THEATER Proof of vaccination required to attend 'Teatro Zinzanni' 2021-07-29
- Randolph Entertainment, presenting Teatro ZinZanni in Chicago, announced that it will be requiring all guests older than 12 to show proof of vaccination to attend its dinner and performance. This requirement will apply to all performances ...

Gay News

About Face Theatre's 27th season to be produced at The Den Theatre beginning March 2021-07-29
--From a press release - CHICAGO (July 27, 2021) — About Face Theatre is excited to announce its return to live, in-person theatre with its 27th season. Dedicated to telling queer stories that advance dialogue about gender and sexuality, AFT will ...

Gay News

Winifred Haun & Dancers announces 2021-22 season, return to live performances 2021-07-27
--From a press release - Chicago & Oak Park, IL — Winifred Haun & Dancers will return to in person theater events and live programming for the upcoming 2021|22 Season. The Company will be presented at the Pritzker Pavilion, Ruth Page ...

Gay News

THEATER Sideshow offers residency, announces digital house parties 2021-07-26
- Sideshow Theatre Company announced it will be offering a nine-month artistic residency to Chicago-based playwright Preston Choi. Through the residency, Sideshow will provide Choi with artistic and dramaturgical support as ...

Gay News

OUTspoken storytelling to host six takes from LGBTQ+ perspective 2021-07-26
--From a press release - The month of August is hot - but OUTspoken at the Sidetrack will be even hotter on Aug. 3 when six storytellers will tell tales of fun and fortune from a LGBTQ+ perspective! The program will start at 7:00 pm at ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Script contest, LGBTQ film, Lady Gaga, Showtime, out sprinter 2021-07-25
- GLAAD and The Black List—the writer-centric entity whose work includes its annual list, screenplay marketplace, writer labs, and film and television productions—announced plans for The 2021 GLAAD List, the third ...

Gay News

DANCE Deeply Rooted named to INFLUENCERS Cohort 2021-07-24
- Chicago's Deeply Rooted Dance Theater is one of five dance companies (and the only Midwestern one) named to the International Association of Blacks in Dance's (IABD's) INFLUENCERS Cohort for the 2021 COHI/MOVE program. The five ...

Gay News

Ravinia to unveil 'Bernstein's Answer' immersive theater experience 2021-07-23
--From a press release - HIGHLAND PARK, IL—On Saturday, August 7, the Ravinia Festival and Jeffrey P. Haydon, its President and CEO, will officially unveil the Ravinia Music Box (RMB) and its immersive theater experience, titled Bernstein's Answer, and fully open ...

Gay News

THEATER 2nd Story announces first half of 2021-22 season 2021-07-22
- One of Chicago's longest-running storytelling collectives, 2nd Story, announced the first half of its 23rd season of programming for 2021-22. The season will feature nearly 30 world-premiere stories and storyteller debuts, as well as 20 of ...

Gay News

THEATER Steppenwolf announces co-artistic directors 2021-07-22
- Steppenwolf Theatre Company announced a new model of leadership, naming ensemble members Glenn Davis and Audrey Francis as the incoming artistic directors of the storied Chicago company. The new appointment ...

Gay News

Suburban theater employees leave over perceived anti-LGBTQ policy 2021-07-17
- At least two employees of a Christian-oriented suburban theater company—Sophie Murk and Will Higgins—have resigned in recent weeks, citing its policy toward LGBTQ+ students, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The exits ...

Gay News

The Actors Gymnasium to hold community circus, celebrate 25th year 2021-07-16
--From a press release - Evanston, IL, July 15, 2021 — Actors Gym is proud to announce Summer Salon 2021, an evening of circus under the stars in Tallmadge Park to celebrate the organization's 25th year. It will be a family-friendly ...

Gay News

THEATER Chicago ensemble presenting play on bisexuality 2021-07-15
- The Trance, a Chicago-based theater ensemble, returns to the stage with Riding the Bicycle. It will be performed at The Edge Theatre, 5451 N. Broadway, on Friday-Saturday, July 30-31, at 8 p.m. According to an email ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.