Variety show brings spice to Prague park


Letna Park in Prague occupies a high, flat plain overlooking the Vltava river. Over the centuries, it's been the location of a military barracks, May Day parades, and last winter, a tent city for the Prague's homeless population. This season, Letna has a new occupant, the variety show known as Palazzo.

The joke had something to do with the cost of buying President Bush a racehorse for his birthday. Comedian Sanjay Shihora got out a piece of chalk and started writing on a blackboard furiously. For several minutes, Mr. Shihora filled the board with his deranged calculations, while a well-dressed crowd of married people and work colleagues looked on from their dinner tables in bafflement. One equation led to another, and finally the equal symbol led to Mr. Shihora's punchline, which caused the audience burst into laughter and cheers over a joke, that was, well, about mathematics.

In the cozy, candle-lit red velvet confines of the Palazzo tent in Letna Park, it somehow made sense.

About as much sense, anyway, as forking swordfish tartare prepared by a celebrity chef into your gullet while watching a nearly naked woman contort herself into a pretzel shape on a high trapeze.

Variety, of course, is what a variety show is all about. There was also a magician who made a wedding ring vanish and reappear, a chanteuse singing the standards, and plenty of acrobatics to make the floorboards of the tent creak.

This is the first year Palazzo has put Prague on to its itinerary, which has long included cities in Germany and Austria.

Brno-based Magician Robert Fox is happy to be performing in his home country. He says it's about time the variety show tradition was revived in the Czech lands:

"Here was a really great traditions but it stopped 1930. But in the 19th century was a great tradition. Everywhere was varieties, people wanted to have fun and be around people, and now is actually new for young people. It's new. But the old ones, remember from their parents....

I was performing in all other countries like America, Luxembourg, Austria and Czech people are starting slowly to warm up, but as they are warm they're really nice. They scream and enjoy the show."

With the cheapest tickets to Palazzo costing 1,400 crowns, or close to seventy US dollars, it's been a challenge so far to fill the pavilion. Or to fill it with Czechs, anyway.

"We're Dave and Jill, we're from England."

"The show was fantastic, the food was lovely. It was all very good."

-What was the most impressive thing you saw?

"My wife obviously."

"No! I think it had to be the trapeze artists, they were fantastic."