In London, the theater performances dominate the nightlife, and in Paris, it’s the extravagant cabaret revues with its dancers, costumes, and music—not to mention fine dining and bar service. As the sun sets after a day of visiting attractions or working in the office, it’s time to enjoy Parisian nightlife, and oftentimes, a cabaret revue at the Lido, Le Crazy Horse, or Moulin Rouge is in order. Written and Photographed by Terry Check
On the Champs-Elysees next to the George V metro station, Lido de Paris has memorized audiences with stunning revues, five days a week, since 1946. In its tenth anniversary, “Bonheur,” under the art direction of Pierre Rambert, features 70 artists on stage and behind the curtains, 600 costumes of feathers and sequins, and 23 extraordinary sets in a musical setting with a live band, singing and spectacular special effects. The former ballet dancer and now artistic director for the past 12 years created “Bonheur” with a simple and timeless theme of happiness. Reminiscing his whimsical vision, he said, “I imagined a bird-woman arriving on her cloud of feathers from a shore where happiness does not exist. She discovers it through four different worlds: Women, Paris, India and the Cinema.”
The legacy of Miss Bluebell and her troupe continues to live today with the Bluebell dancers. Pierre, who succeeded Miss Bluebell as Dance Master recalls, “There was never any confusion between being a Bluebell girl and a stripper or a lap-dancer. Miss Bluebell’s shows have always been a celebration of the female body, and she was very vigilant that her shows should not stray beyond that.”
For the past several years, Herve Duperret, General Director, worked hand in hand with Pierre together with 350 employees making “Bonheur” come to life with every performance. The cabaret show is big and the Lido is big business. Purchased in 2008 from the Clerico family, by the French company, Sodexo, the Lido continues to innovate the multi-level, synchronizing stages (known as the “aircraft carrier” with its automated processes to lower and raise sets, ice-skating ring, and swimming pool; and then store them in large drawers); amazing choreography and musical scores; and superb artists performing to over 500,000 people each year. Come early and enjoy the live orchestra and fine dining prepared by Chef Philippe Lacroix, offering four menus to 300 guests. Before the curtain opens, 900 additional guests, sipping champagne, fill the venue.
LE CRAZY HORSE
Opening in the spring of 1951, Le Crazy Horse is truly the most avant-garde of all Parisian cabarets, yesterday and today. Since the Bernardin family decided to sell the cabaret in 2006, the new team headed by Andree Deissenberg, formerly with Cirque de Soleil, focused on the legendary venue’s reputation of sublimating women through unusual and surprising creations. The challenge was returning creativity to its artistic endeavors. As Andree said: “It was never a matter of revolutionizing Le Crazy, we just had to evolve it, awaken it and make it sparkle again.”
Sparkle it did. Always known as a venue celebrating women’s beauty and sensuality, Le Crazy Horse invited celebrity performing artists like burlesque superstar, Dita Von Tesse, Pamela Anderson singing “Harley Davidson,” and French actress, Clotilde Courau, all renewing center stage. Building on this success, the company’s management envisioned a new creative team to develop its next show, unlike any other show. With the artistic vision of French choreographer and dancer, Philippe Decoufle, a new mythical revue, “Desirs,” was created, introducing contemporary tableaux with visual and musical sensuality unparalleled. Opening in September 2009 to rave reviews, “Desirs” performs to SRO audiences with acts such as Take My Love, Red Shoes, Upside Down, But I Am A Good Girl and the finale, Mustangs, totaling seventeen fast-moving acts on a small, intimate stage. Deliberately bold and provocative, the dancers with beauty beyond compare, personify their own hypnotic sensuality with a backdrop of colored lights, incessant body motion, and musical interludes setting the tone and establishing the theme of each act. Don’t miss the square cut, white wigs, Mustang tails and the Louboutin’s high heels with just the heel. Simply amazing… add this 90-minute extravaganza to your bucket list.
Opening in 1889 and still in business, the Moulin Rouge sets the benchmark for cabaret worldwide. Wow… where to start? Originally located at Montmartre Place Blanche, and still there today, the bohemian venue immortalized the French Cancan (Quadrille), a revolutionary dance of the day with rowdy music, lively movements, and multiple dancers lifting their skirts to show the young dancers’ legs and reveal their panties. Such a great success, the French Cancan is still preformed every night together with so many other acts.
What makes a great revue? It takes artistic genius creating the storylines, superb choreography, and music compositions all coming together with the dancers’ talent, costumes (feathers, rhinestones, sequins, and of course, high heels), set designs, and special effects ranging from lighting, fog, pythons, and horses. The troupe of 60 dancers, named the Doriss Girls, are recruited from around the world, each having classical ballet training and the look of a runway model. With strict requirements to maintain weight, hair length and color, to exercise and attend dance classes and rehearsals, the dancers are truly dedicated to performing at their highest possible level every day.
Many shows have been produced over the past 120 years, and none better than “Feerie” opening in 1999, and still going strong with 630,000 spectators last year (two shows a day, seven days a week). Under the direction of Doris Haug, the original “Doriss Girl” and Ruggero Angeletti, the fairy-tale show has four main scenes: the Moulin Rouge garden, a magical place of nostalgia; a pirate’s adventure offering his treasures to the lady of his dreams; the circus coming to town and a tribute to Parisian women throughout the years highlighted by the French Cancan. Arrive before the show and enjoy French cuisine at its best, prepared by the chefs of the Maison Dalloyau together with a glass of champagne.
What choices to make… the Lido, Le Crazy Horse, or Moulin Rouge. If money and time are not a problem, then definitely attend all three revues. If you want chic and elegance, select Lido’s “Bonheur.” For edgy and provocative sensuality, then chose Le Crazy Horse’s “Desirs.” For bohemian extravaganza, none is better than Moulin Rouge’s “Feerie.” If it’s too difficult to decide, then flip a three-sided coin… everyone is a winner.
For more exclusive photographs, check out our Oct/Nov 2013 issue!