noun: a public show or display, esp. on a large scale
To say it was a spectacle doesn’t begin to do justice to the absurd, over-the-top, unpredictable, entertaining, and fabulous performance of the Lido cabaret. It was not quite the sexy show I had anticipated— it was more circus meets musical—but my expectations were exceeded nonetheless.
Notably, the theater was almost empty. A full house adds a positive dimension to performances from which we did not benefit. I felt bad that the performers put on this incredible show to such a small audience, but I hoped that our very American cheering — think “Woo woo!”— made up for it. Our enthusiasm was genuine and I was truly mesmerized.
The show began when a feathery pod descended from the ceiling to deposit the lead woman. It was a dramatic entrance, but the drama was somewhat stifled as she began to “sing.” The song was a happy mixture of French and English welcoming us to the fabulous Lido cabaret, except it was played over the speaker while the main dancer lip-synched. I immediately understood the practicality of this arrangement, but I still would have much preferred a live musical performance.
Meanwhile, more and more dancers flooded the stage in whimsical and elaborate costumes. Topless women and men in ass-less chaps danced about in a grand coordinated effort. The nudity, however, was almost irrelevant. It neither added nor detracted to the overall; it was neither vulgar nor particularly artful; it was neither a turn-on nor a turn-off. What was more interesting was the line of the women’s bodies. They were all statuesque women of at least 5’10”, although that is a rough estimate. They were almost all exceptionally thin but almost none were particularly muscularly toned.
Because I have recently been thinking about how much I eat compared to average French women—which is considerably more—I tried to imagine the eating habits of the performers. I wondered if they restricted their diets even more than the average French woman. This led to the thought of what their lives were like outside of Lido: did they have much free time? Where did they live? I think all of my speculation must have been induced by the strange juxtaposition of partial nudity, usually an intimate occurrence, in the context of the extremely impersonal and grandiose performance.
From start to finish, the show never lost its momentum. Scene and costume changes were seamless and always surprising. I would have liked to be a fly on the wall below the stage. The marvels that rose up from the basement were the most impressive aspect of the show. For one act, an enormous stepped temple à la the Egyptians, replete with women lining all sides in beautiful gold costumes and headdresses, somehow emerged from the floor only to be lowered and replaced by some other fantastic set. Perhaps more impressive was the pool that rose from the basement depths, fed by ornate fountains spewing water and set in front of a sheet of water coming down from the ceiling. Just as I thought nothing more absurd could take center stage, an ice-rink featuring a figure-skating pair was hoisted up. A wonderful little skating portion followed to great applause.
One of the more memorable performers was a man who did the Chinese yo-yo to techno beats. His appearance was quite ridiculous: his long hair hung in wet bunches in front of his face, his stage make-up was overdone, including the dark-lights drawn on his abs that were clearly attempting to mimic muscle definition, and he seemed to be sweating a great deal. Despite these shortcomings, his performance was outstanding because of his energy. He interacted with the audience by feeding off of our encouragement. He even stepped on our table and flung his yo-yo right over heads. He was very skilled and the lighting effects really enhanced his tricks.
The most extraordinary aspects of Lido were those that were inanimate or abstract. The sets blew my mind in their elaborate design and fabulous execution; the costumes were whimsical and beautifully detailed. The concept of the immense manpower involved in the performance, both on stage and behind it, amazed me; the juxtaposition of nudity in a non-sexual performance intrigued me. Overall, the song lyrics were a bit cheesy and the dancing didn’t seem too demanding, but I still thoroughly enjoyed every moment of Lido. It was one of the most memorable performances of any sort I have ever seen and I feel very happy that I got the chance to experience a real Paris cabaret.