Next spring, Bayless will be the live-and-in-person star of a Magnificent Mile circus show designed for and around him, it was announced at Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre on Tuesday morning. You could think of it as a kind of Chef du Soleil.
Entitled “Rick Bayless in Cascabel,” the new show has been developed by Tony Hernandez, Lookingglass' circus specialist, and the director Heidi Stillman. It will run for four weeks only, from March 23 to April 22, 2012 — and given the national reputation of Bayless, it's likely to be a hot ticket.
The show is set in a Mexican boarding house “at the end of a dusty road” during the 1940s, according to Lookinglass. Bayless will play a chef who tries to seduce a woman with no appetite by filling her heart with food. Supporting players are to include a tightrope-walking sous chef and a comedic maitre d'. Bayless is credited with co-authorship.
"Food will be a leading character," said Bayless, "that will speak to audiences by flavor and texture."
For many hungry Bayless fans, the most immediate question will be, does one get to eat during the show? Or is that all reserved for the woman with no appetite?
You most certainly do get to eat. Ticket prices, which run from $180-$205, will include a three-course meal, hors d’oeuvres and non-alcoholic beverages. Anticipating high demand, Lookingglass said it has reserved the right to increase those prices as tickets became scarce. Capacity will be 150 people a night. (More information at lookingglasstheatre.org/cascabel.) In the meantime, the theater is restricting immediate sales to subscribers for its 2011-12 season, which begins at the Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave., with “The Great Fire” in about a week. Subscribers will be able to buy tickets to "Cascabel" on Tuesday.
The food for “Cascabel” will be prepared at Bayless' Frontera Grill and then brought to the nearby theater — where the chef presumably will have plenty to do.
In Chicago, celebrity chefs are increasingly turning to the theater and theatrical settings for their food. With the opening of his Next Restaurant, the chef Grant Achatz introduced a number of theatrical concepts to the restaurant business, including selling tickets rather than taking reservations, setting a room to match the menu, costuming waitstaff and cooking to reflect a specific and exotic time and place.
But Bayless is arguably going one step further, putting himself and his food at the heart of a full-on show, acrobatics and all.